Members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Transport and Aviation yesterday cautioned the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), Transport Owners Association (TOA) and other traffic authorities to come together to address the numerous challenges in the transport sector.
This came in the wake of a complaint made by the TOA to lawmakers concerning the ways and manner at which members of the Road Traffic Corps were 'illegally' arresting vehicles and drivers at the same time.
According to the Acting Secretary General of TOA, Gibrilla Bangura, government regulates institutions that paid taxes, but whenever prices of goods and service increased, theirs remain stagnant, even though they provide services to the public.
He said the traffic corps levied heavy fines on drivers and that they are mostly charged to court if they fail to pay.
He said most drivers that are charged to court cannot access legal service hence most times end at Pademba Road prisons.
He charged that the drivers' union was doing nothing absolutely to come to the rescue of drivers who come in contact with the law.
"We have met severally times with the police hierarchy on the issue about the extortion. We all have roles to play but the union needs to address the issue of the drivers. There is need to revisit the traffic charges and also look into the condition of services of drivers and vehicle owners," he urged.
Hon. Abdul Kargbo, one of the committee members cited the 2007 Road Traffic Act, which states that before licenses are given out, due diligence must be observed.
He said there is no need to arrest vehicles that have already been examined after undergoing the aforementioned processes.
He said most of the drivers across the country do not undergo the formal processes and test before licenses are given to them.
"Most of the drivers do not deserve to be given licenses because they do not undergo the formal training processes. Those that are supposed to do the correct thing are not doing it. The police-driver relationship is not good, hence it should be considered," he stated.
Hon. Dr. Mark Mahmoud Kalokoh said SLRSA has one of the best garages, but no government vehicles are taken there for maintenance.
"SLRSA need to be given the opportunity to have their separate accounting system, with no need to be included in the single entry system. They need monies to run the operations of the authority. I think the decision of them operating in the single entry system should be revisited," he said.
He cautioned the Executive Secretary of SLRSA that the new Traffic Corps should exhibit some respect to the public when carrying out their duties.
He said that 99% of the vehicles across the country are old, thus urging them to do thorough checkup.
Hon. Momoh Bockarie disagreed with TOA on their claims that the police wanted to put them out of job, citing that most vehicle owners do not know their drivers well enough.
"Lot of money is given to the Driver's Union, but they neither use it to train the drivers nor address their welfare. There is need to give them proper training to know what is essential for them and once someone want to hire drivers, the union should be able to provide them with one including their information," he stated.
Hon. Bockarie noted that the activities of the SLRSA should not only be concentrated in the main cities or townships, but rather in the highways as most time accident occur with no record is taken, thus urging for some traffic corps to be assigned there.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Dickson Rogers said the meeting was essential as several issues have arisen which they needed to address.
He said all government vehicles needed to be taken to the SLRSA garage for maintenance and or the Serra Leone Police garage where it is probable that they would spend less.
He said the issue brought before them could not be settled without the involvement of other stakeholders within the sector.
On his part, Executive Director of SLRSA, David Panda Noah, admitted that they were not implementing all the laws as they normally conduct vehicle test every six months, which is supposed to be done annually.
"The testing of vehicles is very important as most times when the owners bring their vehicles for testing, everything is perfect in them but after the process, they change all the seats and tires of the vehicles," he said.
He stated that most of the drivers that are penalised are those that commit offenses repeatedly.