Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Friday - Freetown City Council works yard #sierraleone

After our tour round the Freetown Waste Management Company's (FWMC) depot we moved next door to take a look at the council's yard. Until recently the two sites operated independently with FWMC acting as a stand alone private business commissioned by FCC to deliver waste collection for Freetown. A degree of separation remains but the two entities are more closely entwined, at least for now (the council seem desperate to outsource it as quickly as possible).

It transpires that FWMC have not been handling all waste collection. Do you remember the night gabbage collection at the market with the two lads perched precariously at the back of a lorry? The central market areas were the responsibility of the council to look after and to help them in doing that Hull City Council had sent three Vultures about six years ago. At the yard we saw evidence of all three but only one of them was in working order. The others had been cannibalised for parts to keep the others going. Now the final vehicle was struggling to keep going and FWMC had been press ganged into making sure the market didn't drown under rubbish.

However, the highlight of this trip was undoubtedly the sweeper. Earlier in the day when Doug Sharp and Bowenson Phillips had been on Lunchtime Break a viewer had texted a question to ask what had become of Freetown's infamous road sweeper. And we were privileged enough to get a photo taken alongside the folly of a former mayor.

Apparently, the story goes, the mayor acquired the sweeper for 500,000,000 Sierra Leone Leones (that's something like £80,000), a massive outlay for the city. It arrived with much fanfare about six years ago but worked for about half a day. The reason for it sitting dormant in the yard is unclear - someone suggested there was a skills gap in using it that meant the brushes could not be raised and as a result this damaged it, someone else said it was a question of parts but the overwhelming consensus was that the mayor had made completely the wrong decision in getting hold of a vehicle designed for evenly paved, properly made roads in a city where surfaces like that are not exactly common. Questions were raised over the cost of the vehicle and whether there had been a discount on it, or whether it had been given for free but nevertheless, as word of this waste of FCC funds got out the mayor was hounded out of the city in shame. Emerson, one of Sierra Leone's leading musical artists and well known for the political sparring of his lyrics even penned a song about the debacle.

At least we might be able to put to bed the rumour that the vehicle has been heavily cannibalised. But to the naked eye most of it looked to be in pristine condition. The problem is that the vehicle is completely inappropriate for Freetown's needs.

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