Members of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises (PAC/PEC) (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly Thursday gave a clean bill of health to the 2012 Annual Activity Report and Financial Statements of the National Road Authority (NRA) at the Assembly Chambers in Banjul. Presenting the NRA's annual activity report, Momodou Senghore, its managing director, said in line with the recommendations of the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE 2012-2015) and Vision 2020, the NRA Policy was recently formulated for the period 2011-2015. Key among the recommendations, he told the PAC/PEC members, is the introduction of the road user charges to enhance the Road Fund; something he said will significantly address the present maintenance backlog. "The need to control vehicle overloading to avoid premature failure of the road pavement is also highlighted in the Policy". According to Senghore, the capacity of the authority has steadily increased with the recruitment of more technical staff during the period under review, which includes project engineers, a quantity surveyor, and an electrical superintendent for the supervision of streetlight maintenance and a senior marketing officer for the administration of bill/signboards.
"The position of the Technical Director has also been filled to take charge of all technical matters. Further arrangements are being made to recruit more technical personnel to enhance the capacity of the technical directorate," he added.
He told the deputies that the activities of the NRA mainly involve monitoring and supervision of development and maintenance projects, key among them the EU Funded Regional Road Projects. "All the Roads of the project have now been sustainability completed with the exception of the Basse-Sabi and Badiara-Vellingara link, which is in progress," he added. He also informed the PAC/PEC that the section of the Trans-Gambia Highway within a swampy area, which has been preloaded to allow settlement to take its course prior to sealing, is yet to be completed. Senghore also said that the Soma-Mandinaba Road Project has suffered from financial constraints from the very onset of the project, but the Government of The Gambia has been able to secure the supplementary financing to ensure its completion. "As at now, works have reached an advanced stage with less than 10 kilometers out of 139 kilometers to go.
"80% of the primary road network would have been upgraded to bituminous standard when the Basse-Vellingara is completed in 2013. The main outstanding sections will be the 12-kilometer Laminkoto-Passimas and the Basse-Fatoto stretches. Feasibility study and detailed design for the Laminkoto-Passimas road has been updated in 2013 to reassess its economic viability and reflect current rates," he stated, noting that arrangements by the Ministries of Finance and Economic Affairs and the Transport, Works and Infrastructure and the NRA to secure funding for the construction of the Road are well underway. While stressing the need to focus on road maintenance to ensure that the investment in the road sector are fully protected, Senghore noted that proper road maintenance contributes to reliable transport at reduced cost, as there is direct link between road condition and vehicle operating costs (VOC). "An improperly maintained road can also represent an increased human and property cost. To this end, NRA has since its inception, been carrying out annual road maintenance programmes countrywide."
Despite the major progress made in development projects, Senghore highlighted that the Road Fund presently is solely dependent on government subvention, lamenting that the allocation to the Road Fund is inadequate. "It is therefore becoming an uphill battle to finance all the roads from the general budget, which is resulting to increasing the backlog of deferred maintenance," he stressed, adding that there is also the lack of enforcement of axle load control resulting in the premature failure of the road infrastructure. He also lamented the inadequate office space for the increasing staff numbers, and stressed the need for funding of the construction of a new building at the NRA site in Bijilo. Presenting NRA's financial statements, Mustapha Joof, Director of Finance and Administration, revealed that the Authority's total income was D73, 549, 640 in 2012 compared to D67, 110, 030 in 2011. He further revealed that their expenditure was D87, 528, 096 in 2012 compared to D35, 255, 658 in 2011. Joof further told the PAC/PEC members that NRA's total Current Assets was D100, 011, 955 in 2012 compared to D87, 117, 132 in 2011, while the total Current Liability is D9, 819, 382 in 2012 compared to D4, 012, 440 in 2011. Ibrahima Sanyang, senior compliance officer at The Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), informed the Committee that the NRA was found to be mainly compliant with the Public Procurement Regulations. Members and subject matter specialists then raised questions, concerns, comments, and recommendations, which were responded to by officials of the NRA before the reports were finally adopted. Sittings will resume on Monday the 21st October, 2013.