Home Governance “Management, Not Money” -Amara Konneh Laments RIA Woes

“Management, Not Money” -Amara Konneh Laments RIA Woes

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MONROVIA: Former Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Mohammed Konneh has asserted that electricity and more money are not the solutions to the Roberts International Airport’s (RIA) problem citing the lack of management as the primary source of the problem.

Former Minister Konneh said in January 2006 during the inception of former President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf administration the nation’s largest airport was in physical and financial tatters.

He claimed that the Roberts International Airport (RIA) was then, deep in debt, it had no auditable trail of revenues and expenditures, and it suffered from a bloated payroll, a severe skills shortage, and a culture of corruption.

“Alex Cuffy, an internationally recruited financial controller (a CDCien, I must add), worked with the UP Government and implemented a controls system to improve financial management. Between 2006 and 2009, Cuffy worked with Julius Dennis and Abraham Simmons, successive managing directors at RIA, to implement a series of reforms to make the airport viable again,” the former finance minister intoned.

With these reforms, he added that the RIA met International Civil Aviation Organization standards, and U.S. regulators approved the facility to handle flights to and from America.

It also brought about major airlines like Delta, British Airways, Air France, etc., to add RIA to their routes.

His comment comes in the wake plans by the Weah’s administration to put in US$23 million to solve the electricity issue at the Robert’s International Airport amid report of complete darkness hovering over the nation’s premiere Airport.

“I am not sure what Alex Cuffy’s current political affiliation is. Still, if we are serious about having a well-managed international airport by international standards, he is perhaps the best to do it,” he suggested.

The Former Finance Minister, also praised Alex Cuffy a Liberian, as a man with strong managerial skills and experience with a deep understanding of systems, politics, and culture.

He urged the George Weah government to look beyond partisan politics on one of the most important strategic economic infrastructures in the country.

“Sorry, Alex Cuffy, for putting you on the spot, but we should be offering solutions for a situation as grave as the current status of our international airport.

To my friends in the regime, please forgive me for perhaps being the wrong messenger. Just ignore me for a moment.

You inherited an airport with a new runway, terminal building with jetways (”first time since 1847”), and other amenities befitting a modern airport. It doesn’t matter who built it; it belongs to Liberia.

Making it work to increase the inflows of passengers, whether they are Liberians returning home, tourists, investors, etc., will help boost your legacy long after you leave office.

Imagine annual revenue was roughly $4 million in 2006 when you had a runway with potholes and a house as the terminal. Then imagine the potential now. Own it and prevent it from falling apart. Get the right people in there.”

Touching on the Liberia Electricity Corporation, he called on the government to fix the problem of electricity supply because the situation is now before the regime.

“The same can be said about the Liberia Electricity Corporation. You inherited about 130 megawatts of grid power, cross border electricity serving 18 communities in Nimba, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland, and the 1303 km electricity interconnection that will supply electricity from Cote d’Ivoire to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (CLSG) as part of the West African Power Pool – up from zero megawatts – when your predecessors were elected. Fix it because you own it now. It’s your legacy too!” he averred.

He at the same time warned members of the opposition community to desist from mocking the situation as it is no one interest for both institutions to collapse particularly at a time the nation is just 17 months away from elections.

Meanwhile, the Board Chairman of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Musa Shannon has openly apologized to Liberians and foreign residents over the poor lighting systems at the RIA. Shannon is a former professional footballer who played along with President George Manneh Weah on Liberia’s National Football team (senior) during their active football years in Europe.

The RIA in recent weeks has been unable to provide much needed services to the population due to poor electricity.

On Thursday, April 7, 2022 members of diplomatic community including Ambassadors from U.S, UK, EU and others, toured the Airport facilities in Harbel City, Margibi County, to ascertain the challenges facing the management team.

Shannon told members of the diplomatic missions that instead of listening or reading different reports about the Airport it was important to show up and have an appreciation of the challenges the people behind the scene are faced with.

“The Roberts International Airports has a lot of challenges but we are working out modalities to give the best that we can give and I think today visit was the first step in the right direction,” he said.

Speaking to reporters following the tour, Mr. Shannon cited that the Airport authorities take full responsibility of the ugly situation but mentioned that modalities is being worked out to address the problem.

The RIA board chairman among other things stressed that the Airport has unique history in Africa’s aviation adding when the International Community and Liberia unite the results will good things.

According to Shannon, as a result of the urgency, the power situation has brought on the country; the government of Liberia has come to make sure the Airport authorities have all the support.

In the sonnet of time will get back to its normal status stating that one of the quick fix measures will be a solar plant that will produce 3 megawatts of power in order to solve the problem to a certain extent.

“We also want change some of our navigation equipment which are not state-art, they are functional but they are not state-art, so that we can be compelling with our neighbors, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Ivory Coast who are far ahead of us in terms of aviation. I am not here to make any excuse, we can do better,” he mentioned.

He said the RIA will appreciate support from its donor partners in order to remedy the current situation because RIA success is everybody’s success.

Quizzed about how soon will the situation be addressed, the RIA board chair lamented that doing it the right way is the most important thing that they are workings towards.

“The plans were already on the way for Solar and we were almost at the conclusion point when this happen, so that should be very swift, procurement of equipment is just a process so we want to work as fast as possible but I don’t want to say tomorrow morning or day after tomorrow, the President of Liberia is aware of the situation and he is anxious for it to be resolved very soon,” he said.

He wants every citizen to see the Airport problem as the country problem and desist from politicizing it because the Airport is everybody business.

The government through the Finance Minister announced plans to put in US$2o million to help solve the electricity problem at the Robert’s International Airport.

During it early years in 1942, Liberia signed a Defense Pact with the United States. This commenced a period of strategic road building and other construction related to US military interests in checking the expansion of the Axis powers.
The airport was originally built by the U.S. government as an Air Force base as part of these activities. The runway was built long enough for B-47 Stratojet bombers to land for refueling, giving Liberia what was for many years the longest runway in Africa.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had lunch with President Edwin J. Barclay at Roberts Field during his visit to Liberia in January 1943.
From 1943 to the end of World War II in 1945, Roberts Field Airport, as it was then known, served as an alternative base for a contingent of 26 Squadron SAAF which flew Vickers Wellington bombers on anti-submarine (U-Boat) and convoy escort patrols over the Atlantic.

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