He went on to state that there is virtually no money to run council activities and that revenue generation dropped significantly because for the past ten years people were disgruntled as there were no development projects coming their way and so they were reluctant to pay taxes.
“Now that we are back after our orientation, we have gone down to them and they will now see reason to pay their taxes so that funds generated could be used to develop the town,” he said.
He went on to state that notwithstanding, the government has been in this transition process and things have been so difficult for the Kenema local council and for others elsewhere. He stressed that “the situation is worse in Kenema because the APC had put us on a blacklist.” He added that because of that blacklisting, Kenema suffered.
“If you happen to drive through the town you will notice that it is nothing to write home about because it just resembles any Tongo Field or middle Bunumbu or middle of Penguia. The town is not totally underdeveloped, we do not have good roads; no good streets that Kenema City can boast of. We have lakes all throughout the town during the rainy season and so you will find out that people are really suffering in Kenema,” the Kenema City Mayor said.
If we are to talk of political will, we have the challenge as politicians. Since coming to power we are finding it very difficult, but with our leader and his New Direction policy, we shall overcome in the shortest possible time.
He went on: “We do not have NGOs that can fully take the responsibility of local council any longer. They can come in a bit but they do not take full responsibility this time round because there is no NGO which writes a project worth four to five billion Leones and goes ahead to sponsor it.”
He went on to state that looking at Kenema, they need to start development all over again because till date there are no good roads, no reliable water supply, poor electricity; with most social amenities inadequate, unavailable or limited in Kenema.
“So if we say what council in Kenema has to do, I can tell you that we have a lot to do. We do not even have a pointer to say this is where we are going to begin our development phase because everything is just scattered,” the Mayor of Kenema said.
He added that they are looking at how they can begin managing these affairs for the people during the dry season because Kenema badly needs the peripheral roads and the township streets. “This is a fact we cannot hide from anyone…the town needs these roads so badly; even within the district they needs roads badly.”
He went further to state that this particular aspect would be looked into by the government and that as a council they would start with completing unfinished projects started by the council but due to lack of funds these projects stalled and ground to a halt. “We want to restart and complete these projects because opening new and similar projects would debar the progress of the council and leave old projects undone and we don’t want to do that. For example we have the uncompleted Kenema City Hall project for the past twenty to thirty years now and if you calculate the amount needed to complete this project it is within the region of four to five billion Leones. It is a very big hall. I think the biggest in the whole of Sierra Leone. The Clock Tower is also nothing to write home about. You go to the lorry park it resembles a swamp. It doesn’t reflect Kenema. So these are things really that we need to take up with the central government because the resources available to council cannot challenge huge expenditures. It is really heart-rending to see these uncompleted skeleton projects dotting Kenema which is a city in Sierra Leone,” Mayor M’bayoh said.
Responding to questions about employment, the Mayor of Kenema said, “I don’t want you to talk about employment for now. The plans we have for raising money are to do the basic necessity which is the everyday cleaning. The council uses up to Le2.6M (two million, six hundred thousand Leones) daily which amounts to a total of one hundred and forty six million Leones (Le146M) for twenty six working days in the month. Because if we leave garbage lying on the streets even for an hour after the exercise, it would be trouble for us and people would start to throw insults. The garbage accumulated daily in Kenema City is unimaginable and it is deposited on the streets and so we buy fuel daily for all the vehicles engaged in the cleaning exercise. This is the problem we are having. So the resources coming in are council’s, the government has not yet sent any bailout for the council and we have a lot of problems.”
These problems according to the Kenema City Mayor include a number of redundant staff whose benefit payments have accumulated to over one billion, six hundred thousand Leones (Le1.6B). “We do not have the money to pay them unless the central government comes in. The past (APC) government had settled this matter in the other councils deliberately leaving out Kenema City. They (APC) denied us these facilities and so we are calling on the current administration for financial bailout so we can be able to address these matters urgently otherwise the redundant workers will still be on our neck crying for their money, alongside the other responsibilities, duties, obligations and services the people are expecting their council to deliver.”
He added that whatever they attempt to do now with regard development using the little funds they are generating; the issues of the unpaid redundant staff and other inherited problems always come back to haunt them as a council, thus giving the council a bad name, he said.
He stated however that he is confident that President Bio has Kenema in his heart like he has every other part of Sierra Leone.