Sierra Leone’s transportation sector, has confirmed that only 42 out of the 50 “Waka Fine” buses procured under the US$50 million World Bank-funded IRUMP “Waka Fine” Project are currently in operation.
The challenges began before the buses even arrived in Sierra Leone, as one of them suffered serious damage during shipment from India, necessitating its replacement by the manufacturers. Consequently, the country received 49 buses in November 2023, leaving a noticeable gap in the intended fleet size.
Furthermore, seven of the newly acquired buses encountered issues while en route, with damaged windscreens and mirrors. According to Hindolo Shiaka, Director of the Transport Infrastructure and Development Unit at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, these buses are currently parked for maintenance. Shiaka, however, assured the public that one of the damaged buses had already been shipped from India with replacement windscreens for the others.
The delay and setbacks in the deployment of the full fleet raise concerns about the efficiency and timely implementation of the IRUMP “Waka Fine” Project. This initiative was intended to improve public transportation in Sierra Leone, addressing issues such as reliability, accessibility, and overall quality of service.
The Ministry of Transport and Aviation has not provided a specific timeline for the completion of repairs and the full operational deployment of all 50 buses. Citizens are expressing frustration over the delays, as they had anticipated improved transportation services with the introduction of the “Waka Fine” buses.
Questions are being raised about the oversight and quality control measures during the procurement and transportation processes. The damaged bus during shipment underscores the need for robust inspection protocols to ensure the delivery of fully functional vehicles.
In response to concerns, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation has committed to working closely with the manufacturers to expedite the replacement process for the damaged bus. Additionally, efforts are underway to fast-track the maintenance of the seven buses with damaged windscreens and mirrors, with the assurance that replacement parts are already in transit.
Despite the current challenges, officials remain optimistic about the positive impact of the “Waka Fine” Project on Sierra Leone’s transportation infrastructure once all 50 buses are fully operational. The project is part of broader initiatives aimed at enhancing public transportation and driving economic development in the country.
As the repairs and replacements progress, stakeholders and the public will be closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of transparency and accountability in the execution of large-scale infrastructure projects.