18 February 2013

Liberia: LAA Board's Fatal Compromise - Bai Gbala Comments on Loopholes in Theft Saga

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

"When you point an excusing finger at some perceived wrongdoer, don't forget that there is another finger of the same hand pointing back at yourself." If the thoughts of a respected former Liberian public servant, Bai M. Gbala, Sr., are anything to go by, then that Liberian maxim has caught up with members of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Airport Authority who are damning their former Managing Director for plundering and pillaging the Authority's coffers without the Board's consent. In the view of Mr. Gbala, the Board maintains no clean slate in the corruption saga at the LAA.

See Gbala's comments below:

"Circus of Theft & Plunder at Liberia Airport Authority (LAA),

Board Chair Exposes Former MD":  Some Comments

By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.

Monrovia, February 16, 2013

In a two and a half-page statement under the banner headline as quoted above (The Analyst, February 15, 2013), Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), presented a detailed chronology of what appears to be flagrant disregard and abuse of the critical tenets of modern management by Miss Ellen Corkrum as Managing Director of LAA, resulting to and culminating in the reported theft, plunder and possible loss of several thousands of US dollars of public funds.  For these and related reasons, "The Board (of Directors) met and unanimously resolved to terminate Ms Corkrum's (employment) contract for breach of her duties and responsibilities to LAA", Chairman Bility stated.

According to Mr. Bility, "As Chairman of the Board of Directors (of LAA), I signed Ms Corkrum's (employment) contract in September 2012. It was one of the best (employment) contracts  any head of a public corporation has signed in this country. We offered her (Ms. Corkrum) very generous incentive (employment benefits) and financial remuneration in order to hire her services (monthly salary of US$13,000, relocation expense, free housing, electricity, water, related allowance and monthly round-trip, business class ticket to the USA, according to FPA, February 12, 2013). We did it because we wanted the best talent. As you are aware, on paper, Ms Corkrum was an excellent candidate. She has two graduate degrees from two very prestigious institutions – Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Furthermore, she had risen to the rank of a major in the US Military. She had served in the military as a pilot and continued in the private sector as a commercial pilot. Her Resume` (on paper) presented what looked like we were ready to take RIA to the next level with a good manager/administrator . . . in addition to all of these (financial remuneration, employment benefits, allowances), as secretary to the Board (of Directors), Ms Corkrum collected board fees".

Ms. Corkrum is a Ghanaian citizen (FPA), possibly, a US citizen and a dual citizen, having served in the US Military.

Our Comments

Apparently, something went wrong in the chain of command within the LAA organization. In today's fast-paced, socio-economic, political and developmental activities, driven by scientific innovations – notably, information technology - public/private institutions organize and invest in Human Resources Management departments, with functions and responsibilities to recruit, interview, select/hire and place applicants having the requisite qualifications for successful performance. This process depends upon and utilizes the Resume`, interviews and diligent follow-up or verification of employment experiences and references indicated on paper, the resume`.

The Resume` of academic training/achievements and some work experiences, basically, predicts successful performance; not a positive guarantee that the candidate having an excellent resume` will perform successfully in the given position, nor the character of the candidate. As a matter of fact, the resume` says nothing about the character of the applicant in the community and/or in the workplace. This important, critical information regarding character – attributes and workplace attitudes – honesty, openness, team work, cooperation/collaboration, ability to listen to and respect the views of others, irrespective of opposition, and the required behavioral patterns of commitment to democratic practices in top management – is obtained only by and from diligent verification of references, the major responsibility of the Human Resources Departments.

According to the FrontPage (February 12, 2013), "A reliable source has also informed FPA that before her brief RIA sojourn, Corkrum worked briefly for Buchanan Renewables Energy (BRE) as Special Projects Manager, a position which only lasted three months because of what the source described as 'serious ethical breaches and gross disrespect to senior management' that led to the separation".  In other words, there was or is information, right here in Liberia, regarding the character and workplace behavior of Ms. Corkrum that, if known, could have prevented all the management head ache and the possible loss of the tax payers' money.

Apparently, that was not done, let alone verification of the US references. Indeed, the recruitment, hiring and placement of Ms. Corkrum is or was, itself, a flagrant disregard, abuse of LAA's (the Board's and Management's) lawful responsibilities as well as violation of the traditionally/internationally-accepted and practiced, management convention. The references cited in Ms. Corkrum's "excellent, impeccable resume`" should have been subjected to diligent verification by the Human Resources Department of the LAA, with recommendation of the results, negative or positive, to the Management, thence to the Board of Directors, before an employment contract can be executed, if the recommended results are positive.

Therefore, the Board of Directors, Management and Human Resource or Personnel Administration of the LAA should and must be held liable and subjected to punitive action to prevent future laxity in the application of rational, top management principles.

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