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Amara Konneh Blames RIA Electricity Problem To ‘Poor Management’

Former Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh has said the latest electricity problem being faced with at the Robert International Airport (RIA) is as a result of “poor management” by people managing the airport.

“Electricity and more money aren’t the solutions to Roberts International Airport’s (RIA) problem. The people managing it are the problem,” he pointed out on his official Facebook page.

President George M. Weah

Recently, the RIA, headed by its Acting Managing Director, Martin Hayes, has been faced with serious operational constraints, making it difficult for the airport to be lighted during the night hours.

The situation became more embarrassing on March 28, 2022, when President Weah and other government officials were greeted with darkness upon their arrival into the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where they had gone to participate in EXPO DUBAI 2020.

However, as a result of the unstable supply of electricity at the airport, report had it that President Weah then mandated Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah to make available the amount of US$25M to guarantee the supply of stable electricity at the RIA.

See full statement from Amara Konneh posted on his official Facebook page:

“My take on RIA

Electricity and more money aren’t the solutions to Roberts International Airport’s (RIA) problem. The people managing it are the problem!

When EJS took office as president of Liberia in January 2006, just a few years after the end of a 14-year civil war, the nation’s largest airport was in physical and financial tatters. Roberts International Airport (RIA) was 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.

They established financial controls that helped bolster the airport’s financial position, eliminated unnecessary workers, trained the remaining staff, wrote a complete operating manual, and purchased much-needed equipment with financial support from donors.

Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah

With these reforms, RIA met International Civil Aviation Organization standards, and U.S. regulators approved the facility to handle flights to and from America. Results: major airlines like Delta, British Airways, Air France, etc., added RIA to their routes.

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.

Alex is a Liberian with strong managerial skills and experience with a deep understanding of systems, politics, and culture. I hope the regime will look beyond partisan politics on one of the most important strategic economic infrastructures in our land.

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.

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!

I understand the politics, trust me. Don’t mind those who are saying it’s “nothing.” From zero to nearly 200 is something!

To my friends in the opposition, it’s in no one’s interest for both institutions to collapse. Elections are 17 months away! ”

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