By Yusif Moijuah
Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company SIERRATEL is a national entity charged with the tasks of providing reliable and cost effective mobile and internet services nationwide with the full availability of the underutilized fiber-optic cable.
SIERRATEL is one hundred percent state owned but performs less impressive in terms of delivery on its mandates as compared to private telecommunication and mobile operators. And there is not much to make mention of much as SIERRATEL’s cooperate social responsibilities is concerned not even the shortest road leading to the national operator’s headquarters at No. 7 Wallace Johnson Street, back of Bus Station at centre Freetown is not anything to be proud of as public entity.
The company provides gateway and other communication opportunities to private telecommunications operators – Orange SL, Africell, Qcell and other key players including internet service providers as AFCOM, Omline to name just the few. Though all is expected from SIERRATEL yet more needs to be accomplished in order to actualize the smooth operations of the country’s crippling telecommunication company, so as to be able to honour their cooperate social responsibilities as a public utility. CSRs are mostly mandatory by law and being undertaken by so many private and public entities through diverse means to reach out to vulnerable communities and people in dire need of helps, based on fundamental researched on the needs of a given groups of people or communities.
Although whenever you talk of CSRs of public and private enterprises in Sierra Leone people don’t in anyway think of SIERRATEL to take the lead, while Orange SL, Africell and Qcell are making giant and steady strides in the areas of their cooperate social responsibilities, within their communities of operations, which is where state owned national telecommunication operator has failed woefully. For instance, as we piece this article together Orange SL, one of the leading mobile operators in the country has embarked on the rehabilitation of the headquarters of the Sierra Leone News Agency as part of its CSRs.
SIERRATEL as a public entity has nothing to point at as mark of achievements in the telecommunication industry, not even the Falcon Bridge community where the headquarters of the company is situated let along to talk of taking up CSRs by the company.
There, just in front of the SIERRATEL headquarters at Wallace Johnson Street, Falcon Bridge the road to the company’s headquarters building is pot riddle, always dirty, muddy in the rains and dusty in the dry seasons. Yet staff and management of SIERRATEL are complacently comfortable with the existing working condition which is why they embarked on a so-called rebranding of the company’s building according media reports, despite the deplorable environments workers find themselves.
Nevertheless, the cosmetically refurbished SIERRATEL headquarters buildings is not innovating nor any forms of strategic rebranding of SIERRATEL in the actual sense of reforming the national telecommunications company as a state owned brand, even though there is nothing to write home about SIERRATEL, when once you talk of a friendly user network and other products that are being provided by the company.
Apart from the said renovated or rendering of the structure, little or no help is being done in the areas of SIERRATEL’s CSR, even as the company offers the worst mobile network and internet services despite the help of the fiber-optic cable.
It is even sadden to learn that SIERRATEL under president Julius Maada Bio’s administration does not cover certain areas in the country, whereas private telecommunications companies are making steady progress with internet service provisions and mobile phone network operations.
What a shame SIERRATEL, a state owned telecomm to be so poorly equipped to a point of failure to deliver on the legitimate constitutional mandates thereby collapsing the whole institution under the slumbering leadership of the line minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rahman Swaray and his incompetent deputy Mamadi Gobeh Kamara.
The sweet talker has done very little or nothing in as much as policy guidance for efficient managements and operations of agencies and departments under his ministry. Swaray’s MIC apart from SIERRATEL is also responsible for providing direct supervisions for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation-its reform from analogue to digital, Sierra Leone Postal Service, National Telecommunications Commission, Sierra Leone News Agency and Sierra Leone Cables Limited but one year and six months on, none of these services are being delivered on even a 50% basis of their performance tracking, except for SLBC and that of SLENA which are well known for championing the Sierra Leone People’s Party government lies and fake propaganda. So the more reasons minister Swaray is keen on quick fixing the two especially SLENA so as to surge the government propaganda against strong oppositions parties. Besides there is nothing much can be identify as marks of tangible government’s accomplishments under the ministerial leadership of Swaray.
Moreover with all the huge loans to the tune of fourty-four billion United States Dollars being accused by SIERRATEL from India and the Exmi Bank of the People’s Republic of China, through government – line ministry, the company is not as expanded and decentralized as Orange SL Africell SL and Qcell who are busy spreading their networks across the nation by way of providing affordable, reliable sustainable and efficient internet services as well as mobile network operations to their numerous customers nationwide.
As early as January this year, (2019) Managing Director Engineer Senessie Kallon admitted failures of SIERRATEL under his very stewardship saying; “much has not been achieve by past administrations,” as he apportioned blames on past information ministers under the All Peoples Congress led regime of former president Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, deliberately failing to realize that he equally exposed his inability to perform well on his job offered him by the now demonized opposition APC government.
SIERRATEL’s sub branches are not properly operational even in Freetown lets we attempt to make mention those in Bo, Makeni and Kenema who are all mere white elephants. Not even daily subscribers can be accessed recharge facilities from those places the company call it regional and district branches sales stores around the country. The structures do exist with little or no staff occupying them that’s why most people in the countryside reply on Orange SL, Africell and others for strong internet networks.
As for the Wellington sales shop on City Road east of Freetown it is always a business as usual for unavailability of the company’s products whenever customers go there for recharge and other customer care issues. That besides SIERRATEL products perform poorly even in Freetown, this writers has suffered so much from breakages of network lines. Most time the network goes down and off while private companies are always up and running very efficiently.
So, noting the huge lack of confidence in SIERRATEL network don’t wonder nor be that surprised because customers appeared to get fed up and tired with the fluctuating snail pace network.
On a very personal experience several customers were disturbed with poor or no connections throughout last three months. And most time the SIERRATEL hardly compensate subscribers for the disruption of their accounts whenever there is breakdown in connections, which is not in the best interest of customers at all.
Hence on a very serious note we therefore want to encourage government to pay more attention to SIERRATEL and develop it into an ultra-modern telecommunication company that will be able to face the test of competitive business culture where in the company will be always prepared and ready to honour its CSRs as mother of all communications companies in Sierra Leone as is happens in the Gambia before now. So minister Swaray up your game with your teams of agencies and departments leads to meet the increasing demands of the public and simultaneously respond appropriately to your CSRs.