With seven and half years into the presidency, the internationally acclaimed first democratically elected female president of Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is yet to put permanent lid on her avowed promises of putting Liberians back to work, creating employment opportunities. The unemployment gap is widening, something the government has conceded. Yet, a key institution clothed with the mandate of banging in investments - hope of employment - is advanced with plans to lay off potential staffers under the canopy of "finding requisite and professional staffers." Where does this lead Liberia and Liberians? Nathaniel Roger Walker of our staff talks to the NIC boss and reports. About 50 Liberians in the employ of the National Investment Commission (NIC) are on the verge of being sacked for what chairman O. Natty B. Davis calls an urgent need to reduce the current number of staffers at the institution-from 140 to below 100.
He did not disclose names of the would-be affected staffers, but says it is also about professionalizing the entity so that it responds to pressing challenges of coping with its mandate to bang in investors that aid Liberia's economic resuscitation.
He wants to equip the NIC to a level that enables it performs to expectation and a response to what he considers "the presence of so many support staff instead of professional staff at the NIC."
Despite the fact that he has been at the Commission for a little over two years as Chairman, Mr. Davis believes the institution's inability to set an investment projection for Liberia is due to what he terms, "the absence of professionals at NIC"-perhaps he himself.
"The NIC lacks the capability to do projections. These are some of the things that led to the restructuring we are talking about. You have a situation where we met 160 persons when we came here and at least 80% of that was mostly support staff and not professional staff," he told this paper in an exclusive interview recently.
"And we are trying to turn that around. We have been able to reduced that number to a 140, and we hope to get down below hundred. And we hope that by the end of that process we will be able to turn that around and you will be able to get 80% professional staff and 20% support staff. So, our ability to even be able to project that X year, we will be able to have this flow of investment into the country is lacking. We don't have that capability as of yet, quite frankly."
Though he did not state when exactly his planned action will take effect, the NIC Chairman averred that at least 80% of the current staff will be sack to accommodate the so-call professionals his administration seeks.
According to him, the downsized of 80% of the current work force will create room for 80% professional and 20% support staff.
Meanwhile, threatened employees have vowed to resist every attempt by the NIC Chairman to put them out of their respective jobs.
Besides plan to get rid of some of the employees, some of whom have been in the employ of the NIC for a period of protraction, all other things are quiet well and in place as indicated by the NIC boss.
Asked to describe the working relationship between him and the general staff at the NIC, he responded tacitly in the affirmative.
"To the best of my knowledge, I think it is going well. We have set in place a change management process, because again, the institution has to go through some restructure and that restructuring process will have an impact on peoples' lives and it will have impact on the current work that people are doing and the future work that people should be, or could be doing. So, we've tried to put in place a change management process that is first transparent. And second, informative-so that on a periodic basis, we are informing the NIC team on what is occurring and how those occurrences will have those types of impacts, in terms of the work that they do," the NIC chairman noted.
It can be recalled; when he assumed office at the NIC in late 2010, Mr. Davis failed miserably on attempts to rejuvenate the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Unit at the investment commission. On the other hand, a move to sack a number of employees met stiff resistance with few falling prey following a fierce in-house-battle.
Despite being in dire need of logistics and capacity, Mr. Davis and Executive Director Ciatta Bishop Prioritized the relocation of NIC head office from a government property at 12th Street Sinkor, to a private property owned by a relative and located in Gbarnkay Town Airfield-thus posing serious budgetary constrain on the Government of Liberia (GoL).