Dr. Bonopha Tengbeh is the Minister of Water Resources. Speaking on AYV Wake Up Sierra Leone programme on Thursday 8th November, 2018, he said: “As a government, we have a manifesto and one of the things that we promised was to provide water for Freetown in a sustainable way and to tap into one of the main sources around the Freetown environment – the River Rokel.”
Dr. Tengbeh recalled that His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio, made a policy statement on the 10th May this year and that one of the issues that he highlighted was that the government will provide water for the people of Freetown. He went on to say that as Minister of Water Resources, his role is to implement President Bio’s policy.
Dr. Tengbeh said: “I started to investigate to see how best we can do that. This is a very expensive investment for the country costing hundreds of millions of dollars. So what do you do? We as a country cannot afford to do it and so you have to have a combination of foreign direct investors who have the technical capability to implement. So we visited various countries to meet with contractors and sort of do due diligence on some of those contractors that have expressed interest and the result of the due diligence is the MoU which we signed a week or two ago with the China Geo Engineering Company (CGEC). That is not a contract but a Memorandum of Understanding highlighting a process that we need to take towards signing a contract.”
He added that there will be more discussions mainly on the financial model which is very key “as you have to understand how funds are going to be secured currently by us and the CGEC.” He went on to say that there are various models to use and that already a steering committee to manage that process which includes the Ministry of Finance and other partners has been set up.
He said this committee will advise on the correct financial model; together with the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning that is responsible for major infrastructural development in the country.
“I have also set up a project management unit and we would have the Guma Valley Water Company because this is a Freetown project and so, Guma sits on the steering committee. I also have the President’s Infrastructure Initiative which is a directorate within the Office of the President also sitting on that committee. This small team will be chaired by myself and we will do our best to come out with the correct financial model and that will give an opportunity for us to understand further whether that contractor is the right contractor to do the works,” Dr. Tengbeh maintained.
Responding to questions as to why single out a contractor when they should have allowed the process to be competitive, Dr. Tengbe stated that was why they initially did due diligence on various contractors.
“We just didn’t go there, talk to him and sign an MoU, no we didn’t do that. What we did was we actually had various meetings with each one of them – we had like up to seven contractors or investors who expressed interest. There are a lot of briefcase investors coming into Sierra Leone saying they can do this or that but when you drill down into their background for more details you find out that they don’t even exist on the world stage. So one of our conditions was to actually look at what you’ve done in your own country or anywhere else in the world. So I went to China and I visited their infrastructure; their offices, and there was that due diligence and so we pursued even pre-discussion on the finances that are available and the financial models that are likely to be pursued. We pursued the same process with two other contractors that were willing to provide us with the opportunity to go and do due diligence on them. We went to Nigeria where some of them were working, we went to Congo; we went to Guinea where they are doing projects. We did all that and we have put together a comprehensive report for the President. He reviewed it and he took it along with him when he visited China. He came back and we discussed the correct way forward and we decided to actually progress to the next milestone with China Geo Engineering Corporation in terms of due diligence,” Dr. Tengbeh added.