National Transit Authority Abandons Newly Built Buchanan Bus Station
Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – Improving Liberia’s infrastructure is a herculean task for the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led administration despite the massive international fiscal support towards buttressing the country’s over half of a billion United States dollars national budget.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
Financial critics argue that the biggest slice of the country’s budget is recurrent – spent on expensive vehicles, government officials’ salaries and first class foreign travels – while other development issues like roads, health and education have unfairly been attended to.
On the other hand, there have been several unfinished public projects across the country due to irregularities during procurement processes or delays in disbursing county funds by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning – which has also complained about budget shortfalls.
Despite these looming budgetary and procurement impediments, when tax payers’ money is spent on what should be an infrastructure project to benefit the public, concerns about the project satisfying the end-users comes to the fore as well as the expectations of these public funded projects .
In the port city of Buchanan, the National Transit Authority (NTA) says it has spent over US$50,000 on the construction of a passengers’ terminal but over the past two years the structure stands abandoned, prompting concerns from locals while others fear that criminals may use the facility as a hide-out.
Built in 2014, the National Transit Authority’s bus terminal located in suburb of Buchanan is expected to seve as a regional transit hub for NTA buses, commuting passengers to Rivercess and Sinoe Counties.
Over two years since the structure was completed, the NTA says it is unable to get funding in the budget in order to ensure the project meets its full potential.
“We are waiting for national (budgetary) allotment to make sure we continue the project,” explains Robert Wilson, Public Affairs Officer of the NTA. Wilson says fetching funds from the national budget to fully equip the transit hub has been difficult over the years, although the project was completed two years ago.
Liberia’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015/2016 was over US$622 million with US$2,574,606 dollars allotted to National Transit Authority (NTA) and in the allotment US$500,000 was specifically allotted for the construction of transit facilities although there were already three bus terminals constructed in Bo-Waterside, Grand Cape Mount County; Gbarnga, Bong County and Buchanan City.
The NTA recorded the aforementioned projects as some of its progress during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
And for 2015-16 fiscal year which has long elapsed, the NTA stated that it had an objective for spending the over US$2.5 million of its budgetary allocation to improve the sector.
“To maintain transit services on 17 existing routes in Monrovia and between Monrovia and nine counties,” the NTA stated in the 2015/2016 budget objective. “Purchase essential spare parts to ensure regular and on-time maintenance service of old and new buses consistent with the bus service manual.”
Although the NTA official told FrontPageAfrica via mobile phone that the agency is struggling to source funding for the full completion of the bus station in Buchanan, the allocation of the US$500,000 in the last budget sparks a contradiction.
Mr. Wilson, however, did not revealed during the cellular phone interview how the US$500,000 allotted in the budget was expended during the last budget period.
In Buchanan, locals are pessimistic about the project serving them especially as they feel the burn of several other incomplete projects across the county, while others are expressing disappointment because of the location selected for the project.
Located on the outskirts of the port city, the transit center is built in the Own-Your-Own Community – more than a mile away from downtown Buchanan where most travelers regularly seek transport vehicles.
“Building the project was good for the county but look at where the NTA built it,” asked Emmanuel David, of Buchanan City. “The project, to me, was not in our interest, in fact since the building finished the people are not even using it.”
For the Secretary General of Liberia Civil Society Council – Grand Bassa County Chapter, the project is a waste of resources. Victor Flomo argues that the selection of the location was erroneous, adding: “Because people will not be able to travel all the way from central Buchanan or Upper Buchanan to that place to get on the bus.”
He continued: “There are certain development projects that may be good but it should be given due diligence which means those carrying out the project must be able to ask those who they are building the project for. I don’t think the NTA considered all these things before doing this project.”
Despite the justification by the NTA Public Relations Officers that the structure is incomplete due to lack of funding, others are concerned about the NTA’s move to construct over three transit hubs across the country without definite alternative funding sources especially for an autonomous agency.
“For the NTA to build this place and for two years now it is not in use means a disservice to the country’s tax payers so I think something needs to be done,” suggested Flomo.
The National Transit Authority (NTA) was established by an Act of the National Legislature on the March 24, 2009 with a mandated to establish and implement an effective and efficient systematic national transit system in Liberia involving private participation of small, medium and large companies and ensure reliable movement of people and goods at affordable cost.