The procurement of 100 buses by the Sierra Leone government is being investigated by the country's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The buses were bought from China as part of efforts to alleviate severe transport problems in the capital city Freetown.
The ACC said it “acknowledged with gratitude” the government’s acquisition but it had started an investigation into the procurement processes.
It said: “Though the purchase of the buses ushered in a breath of relief upon the weight of the transportation burden on the people, the procurement processes cannot be said to be beyond censure.”
Concerns had been raised about the procurement whereby funding for the purchase was financed by China in a deal that meant the contract must go one of its state-owned companies.
However, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation insisted that the correct procurement procedure had been followed. The ministry’s procurement officer Unisa Dumbuya said that the contract had been vetted by law officers, and that the National Public Procurement Authority had been consulted.
“Under this circumstance, we followed every step set out in the National Public Procurement framework,” said minister of transport and aviation Leonard Balogun Koroma.
The government said that steps had also been taken to ensure the investment in the buses was properly managed, including the setting up of a project steering committee.
It added that the contract represented value for money, covering manufacture, maintenance and repairs, as well as a comprehensive warranty. An inspection team had also travelled to China to check the buses were manufactured as specified.
The minister said: “First they asked: where are the buses? We brought an unprecedented 100. Then they claim the buses are too expensive; that is answered. Now they say the buses are old. Well, you provide an answer to their question, they would change the question. We have to do our job for which we were elected. We cannot be distracted by people who see nothing good in whatever we do.”
The ACC said that irregular procurement continued to be the bane of corruption. It urged the House of Parliament to pay close attention to the gaps which encourage the circumvention of procurement rules and regulations, while considering the ongoing amendments of the National Public Procurement Act of 2004.