Robert International Airport To Undergo Reform. The Roberts International Airport had been a source of pride for Liberians at some point before our civil war. Built by the U.S. government during World War II about 45 kilometers from Monrovia and subsequently operated by Pan American World Airways until 1984, the airport had hosted direct flights from New York and re-fueled planes headed for Accra, Nairobi, and Johannesburg. In addition to being Liberia’s first point of contact for many international travelers, Roberts was also a key component of Liberia’s economic infrastructure, servicing cargo planes flying to and from the region.
Stating The Problems: Before President Weah took office in January 2018, one of the airport’s major revenue-generating areas(The Cargo Section) was outsourced in 2017. The Airport currently has a liability of more than US$900,000 in debt( Payment to NASSCORP from 2017 August up to the present). The Airport which monthly revenue before the pandemic is said to be approximately US$1 million can not cover the costs of running the Airport. Though operational with the support of government subsidies, Roberts remains in dire need of emergency assistance for its “Power” situation. Operating on a cash basis and having no robust system of accounting for income and spending, the airport’s internal structure invited staff corruption. The staff is nearly triple the size necessary to operate the facilities—a problem exacerbated by the political practice of using civil service positions as the means of employment. At the same time, Roberts International Airport lacks the skilled personnel critical for successful operation.
The Challenges: Roberts International Airport is in a nightmare. It is a place where a high level of Undermining and Deception has brought about a lack of financial accountability fostered endemic corruption; it is a place where the workforce is bloated and poorly trained, and finally, it is a place where the country’s volatile political climate has created uncertainties about efforts aimed at changing the airport’s culture.
Starting The Reform Process: These are some major reform steps needed if we are to get the Airport back on course.
*There should be financial controls put into place.
*Overhauling of the airport’s human resource practices.
*Training and preparing airport staff to sustain the reforms.
Financial controls: The priority at the Roberts International Airport will be securing the revenue flow. You can’t do anything without money. People cannot be coming to the airport and paying bills, and the money isn’t accounted for. So there should be delineating reforms to keep track of the airport’s revenue flow.
Eliminate travel allowances for trips to
Monrovia, which often totaled as much as
US$100 to US$150, as well as weekly $30 to $50 snack subsidies for group managers. Reduced the budget of the airport’s public relations department and cut unnecessary costs.
Optimizing capacity: For an Airport that is deep in debt, identifying the most efficient number and placement of staff would be a key component in limiting expenditures and identifying staffing needs for the future. There should be an audit process of identifying areas for workforce cutbacks, and organizational structure, including staff numbers for specific departments.
Some of the passengers’ service staff should be a layoff, many of whom are partisans without basic training in said department.
You can’t have people in one segment of the organization trying to do things that are the responsibilities of another area, it leads to problems.
Take the security sector from the foreigner and let Liberian take charge.
Enlist outside agency the Ministry of Labor, to help assess the quality of airport staff.
Group managers should be asked to
submit names of employees to retain and those to lay off. If group managers dragged their feet, skills and experience level should be made as the main criteria.
Begin with larger departments such as security and operations, and progressively moved to smaller departments including financial sections. There should be an offer of voluntary retirement packages—immediate pensions of 40% of their salaries in addition to small severance payments—to employees close to retirement age. Employees who did not qualify for retirement received larger immediate severance packages: two months’ salary, payments for accumulated leave, and a month’s salary for each year they worked at the Airport.
Finally, the reforms will initially be difficult to implement as a result of resistance from both airport management and staff. Layoffs and benefit cuts will anger the rank and file. Introducing cuts to travel allowances, staff support for reforms will begin to wane.
The reforms will alienate some managers as well as staffers. For example, deputy managing directors or staffers who are nearing retirement or are not qualified to keep their positions under this reform will be forced to choose between a demotion and a severance package.
On this note, appointing a Reformer as the Managing Director without interference from the Executive and other government officials will redirect the future of the Robert International Airport on the right trajectory.
Written By: Dundee Finishson, Political Scientist, Revolutionary, and A Political Strategies