By Lansana Fofanah.
The Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) over the years has been one of the main sources of revenue generating institution for the government. It was previously known as the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRTA) during the tenure of the former Executive Director, Joseph S. Keifala; former Mayor of Kenema District.
Being an institution created by an Act of Parliament under the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) Act No. 4 of 1996, which was later amended under the Road Traffic Act No. 5 of 2007, it was established by the government with key functions such as licensing of vehicles, issuance of driving license, road safety awareness, vehicle worthiness. Etc. but due to the involvement of huge amount of money to undertake its other functions, it was solely engaged in the issuance of vehicles license and that of driver’s license.
In 2008, Dr. Sarah F. Bendu was appointed as Deputy Director of SLRTA; an era which saw the beginning of a real transformation of what is now known as SLRSA.
Road Safety Campaign
Being the Deputy Director, Dr. Bendu realized that the core mandates of the institutions should not just be limited to vehicle registrations and the issuance of driver’s license as previous directors had been only engaged in such, but to target road safety measures, provision of first aid services in the event of accidents, vehicle maintenance and the monitoring of traffic offences.
When she got appointed by His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in 2012 as the Executive Director, she was appalled to know that the World Bank Report of 2011 damned the country as zero in terms of road safety measures as the rate of accidents was alarming.
Road Safety being a capital intensive project, and there was no allocation of budget for such, Dr. Bendu being a project oriented personality lobbied to the World Health Organization that was looking for a government institution to take the lead to kick-start the First National Road Safety Strategy and Policy.
It is worth knowing that most of the other African countries like Nigeria and Kenya at that time were now in their tenth phase of such campaign, and there was nothing like road safety measures in the country that reflect any standard in the world.
Through intensive campaign on local radios, sensitization hours on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation television, the involvement of drivers union and regional road safety committee, it has been a must for every driver to drive with a valid license, reflective triangles ,fire extinguisher, and the observation of traffic signs which has seen the reduction of accidents.
Establishment of Banks
When Dr. Bendu took over, she observed that there were lack of transparency and accountability due to the cash transactions between customers and staffs of the authority. She swiftly frowned at such practice and moved for the establishment of banking systems so that all monetary transactions will be done between customers and the banks where cash will be deposited to the authority’s account.
Today, there are five major banks at the SLRSA Headquarters at Kissy Road which has fast tracked all financial transactions to the consolidated fund.
Toll Free Line
Before now, major streets in Freetown and other places have been converted to garages thereby littering the streets with engine oils. This was also seen as an impediment for the free flow of traffic and a violation of traffic laws. The authority has succeeded in removing unwanted garages that were never registered with the Freetown City Council through the establishment of a toll free line which is 2244.
SLRSA used to be a loitering ground for fraudsters and imposters claiming to be working for the authority, thereby misinforming customers on prices of various services. Many people especially those from the provinces fell victims as they were duped and the authority ended up being blamed.
Dr. Bendu has made it a policy that only those with business transaction should be allowed during working hours in the compound.
A system monitor has also been placed in the license hall where customers go and read a display of different prices of services offered before proceeding to the banks for payment.
One major problem that was affecting customers around the country was that of centralization. Customers used to come from Kabala, Kono, Bo and other prominent places for license purposes which were hampering their other appointments. Today, places like Kenema, Kabala, Magburaka, Makeni and Kono have their own regional offices offering the same services.
Some vehicles are been shipped in the country without having any road worthiness. As a core mandate of the authority, the fitness center in the compound at Kissy Road, is meant to examine every vehicle that is about to be registered so that it will not end up being a death trap for commuters.
When government called for a ban on the importation of right hand vehicle, those that are already in possession of them became worried as to how to cope with the ban. Many vehicle owners suffered damages to their vehicles due to poor mechanics that were not trained to convert vehicles from right to left.
SLRSA has been also used as a training center for drivers of international agencies like UNICEF and UN due to the proficiency skills of it trainers.
The authority then put mechanism in place where engineers of the authority can now safely convert vehicles with genuine spare parts without any fault. This has been considered by the public as a laudable move to avoid further loss.
Building Middle Manpower
University graduates find it difficult to settle in the society due to the herculean task of job hunt despite graduating with good degrees. In a bid to contribute to the capacity building of Sierra Leoneans, SLRSA through the world Bank has initiated a program that encourages graduates in engineering from Fourah Bay College, Government Technical Institute, and Milton Margai College to undertake practical aspect and upon acquiring skills, a minimum start up fund is provided for them to settle in their own businesses.
Recently in 2013-14, the government of Sierra Leone awarded SLRSA as the best institution in the country in terms of performance, accountability and transparency due to the energetic efforts of the Executive Director Dr. Sarah F. Bendu.
Dr. Bendu was awarded an Honorary PhD and double Masters in Administration and Business Development Studies from a renowned university in Dubai.
Due to her dexterity, Dr. Bendu was appointed in an enviable position as Secretary General for the West Africa Road Safety Organization.
Dr. Bendu is the current Queen for Road Safety in the Eastern Region.
Dr. Bendu has been able to lobby the Nigeria Road Safety Authority to provide capacity and training and that has helped a lot in boosting the sector.
As the year 2018 starts, Dr. Bendu hopes to implement key road safety projects which donor partners have agreed to fund in order to elevate Sierra Leone to international best practice when she returns from leave by the end of the month.