The Sierra Leone government has unveiled a new national policy designed to prevent misuse of government vehicles.
The policy, which officials say is under final review, is also billed to save millions in spending on fuel and spare parts, the country’s Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, said.
Mr Kallon presided over the launching of the draft document on Tuesday in Freetown, where he said the new policy seeks to institute discipline in the overall management of government vehicles right across the chain, from procurement, maintenance, and allocation for disposal.
According to the minister, in 2017 the government spent nearly Le11billion (US$1.3million) on vehicle maintenance alone, and between Le25billion and Le30billion (overUS$3million) on fuel and lubricants alone.
“That is worrying and we cannot continue with the status quo”, he said.
The drafting of a new vehicle fleet policy came on the backdrop of debate around the lack of a proper mechanism to monitor government vehicles, which was blamed for the many vehicles thought to have gone missing in the aftermath of the 2018 political transition.
The new government of President Julius Maada Bio accused officials who served under his predecessor of failing to account for official vehicles allocated to them.
According to an audit done by a presidential taskforce (Government Vehicle Recovery Committee) set up to take stock of such vehicles, over 4000 vehicles, out of a total of 8000, were unaccounted for.
The Chairman of that committee, former MP Rado Yokie, said at the time that reports indicated that over 400 of the missing vehicles had been crossed over to neighboring Guinea, while over 200 were parked at unknown locations with their registration plates removed.
There were even reports of vehicles been discovered hidden in bushes, covered with grass.
At least one former cabinet minister was indicted for converting an official vehicle into personal use.
Former Deputy Works Minister, Kadijatu Sesay, was charged with converting a Toyota Jeep valued at $75,000.
Officials say the new policy provides to prevent misuse through the provision of data on government vehicles.