18 February 2013

Liberia: In RIA Financial Scandal - Who's Speaking the Truth?

Photo: Liberia Government
President Sirleaf and members of her cabinet.


It is no longer a secret that if nothing is done to put a halt to the financial malpractices going within the Roberts International Airport (RIA), there will be a serious repercussions on the efforts of government to construct a new multi-million dollars modern RIA that meets current international standards.

Indeed there is a raging Pandora box of accusations and counter accusations between the Chairman of the Board of the Liberia Airports Authority (LAA) Mr. Musa Bility and the newly appointed RIA Managing Director Madam Ellen Corkrum over who should be held responsible for the misappropriation of nearlyUS$250,000.

This is a case that has apparently claimed the attention of even Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) which is one reason that can instigate investigations so as to authenticate the gravity of the situation. This is important because government is striving to re-construct and modernize the RIA as class 'A' standard International airport, considering that facilities at the RIA can no longer cope with present-day upsurge in economic activities in the country.

It is alleged that Ms. Corkrum has been engaged in contracts for the RIA without seeking the prior approval of neither the LAA Board which has the oversight responsibility for the management of the RIA nor the PPCC which provides guidelines for awarding contracts so that such contracts are entered into in a transparent manner in the interest of the Government of Liberia.

One of the contracts that Madam Corkrum entered RIA into for which the Board has raised an alarm was a service contract that she reportedly awarded to Diaspora Consulting Engineering, valued at US$250,000 that was rejected by the PPCC. The PPCC's rejection was apparently on the grounds that Ms Corkrum did not follow the normal competitive bidding procedures that ensures granting contracts only to the bidder that can perform in the best interest of the government. Madam Corkrum did not stop there, but it is also alleged that she paid another colossal US$125,000 to Shell via electronic wire transfer services without any work done or contract signed to justify such a payment.

What is also equally disheartening is that while the RIA/MD was alleged to be on the run towards the United States, the RIA Board and the LAA have been accused of dereliction of duty. They are turning blind eyes as several invoices are allegedly being prepared for encashment by the interim RIA management team without recourse to any transparency and financial accountability measures.

We view with disdain the above wave of financial misappropriation that is reportedly going on at the RIA for which Madam Corkrum has already claimed her innocence. We are of the opinion that it is high time that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) seek the supreme interests of the government and people of Liberia by launching a comprehensive probe into who really is the trouble maker in the ongoing war of words between the Board Chairman and the RIA/Md as the modernization and expansion of the transport sector is a major avenue for creating jobs and energizing economic growth.

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