By Joseph Milton Lebbie…………………
When I recently visited the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC) Depot at PWD in Freetown, I was shocked to see several scrap buses littering the compound, making it resemble a scrap metal garage. The receptionist of that big national institution was sitting at a visibly old desk in a tight corner under the stairway. She was using a cheap old mobile phone as an intercom to inform his bosses about the arrival of visitors.
The SLRTC office appears to have gone without renovation for several years as the painting is worn off and the offices I entered were hot and not properly furnished to befit the status of that big national corporation.
I engaged the Public Relations and Marketing Manager in a lengthy interview on issues ranging from appalling conditions of service to the heavy indebtedness of the corporation, doing so after interviewing many drivers and other workers who complained of deplorable conditions of service.
The PR and Marketing Manager, Mohamed Zoker, was blunt enough to admit that there are still some workers that are paid below the constitutional minimum wage of 500.000 Leones though many have been grafted into the Project Implementation Unit which has better conditions of service, further admitting that drivers receive 25.000 Leones as out-station perdiem, an amount which the drivers described as woefully inadequate and extremely ridiculous.
Zoker also confessed that the SLRTC is heavily indebted to the Eco Bank, the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), the National Power Authority (NPA), the Guma Valley Water Company and the National Revenue Authority (NRA). While bearing the big debts, he went on, the corporation is struggling to pay an overloaded staff and meet other running costs. He made it categorically clear that the revenue generated by the buses is not enough to effectively run the corporation which he described as a public service institution that is not profit-oriented.
The PRO noted that the corporation has found itself in an economic quagmire while struggling to offset loans and meet running cost at the same time. He concluded by recommending that government be giving annual subvention to the corporation to save it from economic collapse.