Corruption and Frustration at Queen Elizabeth II Quay (Water Quay)

7 January 2013 at 05:42 | 3384 views

By Alphonso Williams, Croydon, UK.

Dear Mr President,

As Sierra Leoneans we respect the choice the people made in choosing you as president for another 5 years, and we appreciate some of the work you have done so far in the development of our country that we all love.

But there are still lots of work to be done to attract investors and stamp out corruption in certain or all establishments, be they government or private.

My first point is the problems people encounter at Water Quay when they ship goods from abroad. The corruption at the quay is so blatant that these people do not care who they are doing it to, and when one goods are there you are at the mercy of the personnel’s working at the quay. For e.g. when one ship a vehicle the procedure to get it out of the quay is so long, hard, tiring and frustrating. You have to go from one office to another just to get documents signed, and for every office you have to bribe these officers, if not your paper work would be delayed. One of the staff members there who signs the documents for a vehicle to be valued ask for Le10,000 from each person before he signs their documents, and this is done in the open. Why should it take 3 to 4 days just to get a vehicle out of the port?

When it comes to the bill of laden, they will charged between Le50 – 100,000 claiming that the receiver’s address was not on the bill of laden, even though they know very well that shippers do not put an address on a bill of laden, but on the envelop that the bill is delivered in. When one tries to explain, they will just dismiss you and waste your time, and for everyday your vehicle spends at the quay, you are charged for that, and this could run into hundreds of thousands of Leones.

The valuation of the vehicles is another concern to me. If one ships an old vehicle to Sierra Leone they are charged less for port duties tax, but if you ship a new car they charge you more. I don’t think this is right. By creating such a system encourages people to buy and ship old cars into the country which give out more pollution and is one of the reasons why we have so many abandon vehicles all over the city. Sierra Leone is one of the few countries in Africa that still operates under such system. By reducing the tax on new cars and increasing the tax on old cars would encourage people to by newer and decent cars to send to Sierra Leone.

Now to the Police officers at the junction outside the water quay. As soon as a vehicle leaves the quay after being cleared, it is stopped by these officers asking for licence and registration documents, and accusing the person of driving their vehicle illegally as it is not registered or licence. How do they expect someone to register or licence their vehicle when there are no facilities at the quay to perform these duties. SLRTC has not provided an office or personnel at the quay to carry out this function, so one would first of all have to drive the vehicle to your house as most times people do not leave the quay until after 4.30pm, and not everyone that ships vehicle to Sierra Leone is a registered car dealer with a garage plate which allows you to drive you vehicle unregistered. Sometimes people ship vehicles to Sierra Leone for their own personal use and not for sale. One will end up paying these officers before your vehicle is released, and if you do not get one of the officers to escort you to your destination, you will be stopped again at Clock Tower, again you have to bribe them, and the same thing carries on until you reach your destination.

Flights and shipping to Sierra Leone

Mr President, one still wonders why we have to still pay sky rocketing prices for flying and shipping goods to Sierra Leone. We all know that the excuse is because it is a high risk country, but that was during the war, and the war finished more than 10 years ago. We have had two peaceful, transparent and none violent elections, and with a very good human rights record, thanks to you. When one wants to ship a vehicle to Sierra Leone from Europe we pay more than Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Gambia and Nigeria, the only country in Africa that is more expensive than Sierra Leone is Somalia. When one ships a vehicle to Sierra Leone it normally cost up to £2000 for shipment, tax and port duties, and sometimes more depending on the year and make of the vehicle.

Also flights to Sierra Leone are so expensive, even at off peak times. The cheapest ticket one will get from Europe is £700, and one can pay £300 to the Gambia which has the same flying time. During the Christmas holidays the cheapest ticket is £995.00 and the most expensive is £1245.00. It is even more expensive flying from America or Canada.

Mr President, this does not augur well or in line with your agenda for change. This is discouraging investors and tourism. This also makes goods and commodities very expensive in the open market, and will not attract tourism to Sierra Leone. We should not just rely on the beauty of our country and think that because of our beautiful beaches and landscape tourist will flock there, as there are other countries with beautiful beaches, better hotels, stable and proper electricity supply, better water supply to all amenities and a better customer service, and one can get a 7 nights stay inclusive of breakfast and lunch for less than £700.

Mr President, this is the time to act, we are tired of being ripped off and being taken for fools.