Africa: Sierra Leone plans major upgrade of Aviation facilities to meet FAA standards

Head of Commercial, Procurement and Corporate Planning at the Sierra Leone Airports Authority (SLAA), Bobson Kargbo has said that they have a number of deficiencies in terms of compliance.

He was responding to questions from the Principal Deputy Financial Secretary (PDFS) Matthew Dingie who asked how they can be more efficient and better, what are the compliance gaps for the airport, when it is compared to neighbouring countries.

Flights he said are not coming as they want and asked what they are doing in the budget to address them in terms of requirement and safety challenges. The Authority he said is also challenged with the cost involved in training an aircraft controller in South Africa, to train one person costs US$25,000.

The other gap is the cargo, he said that they have constructed a huge cargo complex through a Public, Private, Partnership (PPP) arrangement. This Kargbo says is not yielding anything because of the embargo of some export, like palm oil and vegetables as they are not allowed to be taken out of the country until those regulations are looked into the complex will remain a white elephant.

We have significant safety concerns we have (an) emergency operating centre which is required by international civil aviation but to construct one is very expensive. Mohamed Sesay, Head of Admin and Human Resource added that on the compliance gap, one thing that is certain is that the handling infrastructure has aged and the industry is dynamic. He disclosed that they will be procuring a new fire engine Panther 6 X 6, a mega generator to complement EDSA and to also improve on the toilet facilities. We have another big project this year to encourage aircraft flying in from the United States, they will soon construct four boarding gates because that is a requirement by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA).

PDFS Dingie then asked if all of these things are part of their budget for 2019, Sesay replied that it is and that it will also include a meters and greeters structure which will also be constructed coupled with the training of 60 fire fighting personnel.

“We are all most in September coming to the end of this year how far are you to make sure they are complete this year?” Dingie asked. Sesay said that they will get the generator by next month, the pre-boarding gate will be done this year as they in the valuation stage, and the fire engine process is almost completed just waiting the award of the contract. Dingie then said that it means that it will not be available this year by the way they are responding, and cautioned them to make sure that the budget for next year makes provision for these compliance issues, “we are here to make sure that we see things that are tangible and feasible to know that the airport is making strides to meet international standards” he said.

He said that they need to be certain that these things are fully financed for 2018 but the processes that remain means they have to go into 2019 and they do not know if it is captured in the 2019 budget. “With 71 percent of the budget already going to salaries and operating costs, I don’t see where provisions are to pay for these things we need to get clarity on them.” Bobson then said they will roll them over to 2019 financial year, but they are still confident that it will be addressed by them.

Dingie then asked at what cost is the fire engine, he said that it is valued at US$600,000. PDFS then asked if they can pay for all of these, taking into consideration their cash balance in the cash flows, … their projected shows that they expect Le13 billion and they want to use half of it procure the fire engine with the huge wage bill, operating cost and all of these things.

“These are the issues people do complain about especially those that do use the airport, so we really need to clarify this 2018 ones and you also mention 2019 training of controllers the safety concerns, the cargo, security we are even yet to go into those” said Dingie.

“But these ones we need to have a clear strategy and monitoring mechanism as to whether they will be achievable either this year or next, we need to see it clearly so that we agree on it and it is delivered.”

Bobson ended by assuring that it will be addressed.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

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