Monrovia – The snail pace at which President George Manneh Weah has been forming his government has by no doubt created some systematic loopholes – giving opportunities to some unscrupulous appointees to exploit the system, the National Port Authority (NPA) being a classic example.
The NPA has made several headlines since the appointment of its new Deputy Managing Director. In the space of one month after the appointment of Madam Celia Cuffy-Browne, a lot has happened at the country’s economy gateway, even in the absence of a Managing Director proper and a fully constituted board of directors.
Since taking over, Mrs. Cuffy-Brown assumed unto herself powers not vested in her by any statue, which to some extent threatened to destabilize the NPA and set it back years of recent gains and improvements.
Without regards to Chapter VI, Section 56, sub-section 3 of the Act Repealing and Adopting the Public Authorities Law, Cuffy-Brown has been engaged in hiring of additional staffs and unilaterally increasing salaries of some staffs in the system.
This is being done without consideration that the NPA runs on the government’s fiscal period – July 1 to June 30 the following year. All these appointments and raises in salaries were not budgeted for in the current budget.
Chapter VI, Section 56, sub-section 3 of the Act Repealing and Adopting Chapter Six of the Public Authorities Law reads: "The Executive Officer/Managing Director shall conduct the ordinary business of the NPA.
Subject to approval of the Board with regards to senior officers and staff, the Executive Officer/Managing Director shall be responsible for the organization, appointment and dismissal of the officers and staff".
This means, only the Managing Director, with the approval of the Board of Directors have the power and authority to appoint, hire and dismiss and not any deputy.
Most recent embarrassing unfolding is and FPA investigation that unearthed payroll padding at the NPA involving three brothers of President George Weah.
Three of those posts include an Evaluation Officer, a Local Liaison Officer and a Public Relations Strategist, which according to sources were non-existent until now and created by the acting MD.
FPA obtained several pay-roll checks dated March 1, 2018, which appears to be duplicating functions of existing positions with salaries nearly five times more than what the heads of key departments at the NPA.
These situations have been causing embarrassments for President Weah, sources say.
However, he has been keeping his cool based on the notion that it is too early to crack the whip.
But the President is not leaving the things as they are at the National Port Authority.
Sources closed to the presidency informed FPA that President Weah was considering nominating Mr. Richard Devine as Managing Director of the National Port Authority, but was compelled to rethink his decision due to the alarming wave of missteps and embarrassing decisions taken by the Acting MD.
The President felt a Board Chair instead was needed to overturn some of those decisions.
Richard Devine served as Senator of Bomi County.
He would have a hell of a task undoing and revisiting decisions and commitments made by Madam Cuffy-Brown, who is said to be falling out of favor with the President.
“President Weah is aware of what has been obtaining but has been mute for a reason.
He has his own plans and he would eventually roll them out.
He feels strongly that Richard Devine can turn things around that are why he named him ahead of naming a managing director,” the source said.
The daunting task before the newly appointed Board Chair of NPA has to begin with the revision of pay rise, revision of newly minted MOUs without the input or approval of the Board, recent promotions of some employees, amongst others.
Many port users have complained of the difficulties they face in getting their containers from the NPA, citing series of unnecessary bureaucracies and high tariffs.
On January 15 this year, APM Terminals announced that it was increasing the annual tariff, with the measure having been put into force since February 1, 2018.
“Per our Concession Agreement, this adjustment is calculated by a predefined inflationary formula, and will have the effect of adjusting all charges in the current Tariff upward, by 7.032%,” the company said in a statement.
APM Terminals is an international container terminal operating company headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica recently, Andrew N. Anderson, a local entrepreneur bemoaned the hurdles importers and clearing companies encounter in clearing goods at the Freeport of Monrovia.
He further lamented that the lack of coordination between BIVAC and Custom, coupled with the poor service delivery system at some of the major players in the importation of goods and services is posing a serious setback in the operations of his business and other businesses.
Port users, especially Liberian business owners are looking forward to robust reforms at the NPA to alleviate the difficulties they go through in clearing their goods out of the port and a work of the new board chair would be significant to reviving the Liberia’s economic gateway.