Liberia: Senate Rejects Weah’s Pick for Airport Authority

… Put in perspective, whoever takes the helm of the Liberia Airport Authority is responsible for not just RIA, but also James Spriggs Payne Airport and all other domestic airports in the country. A hefty task, no doubt, requiring a leader with a great wealth of experience to revive Liberia’s once thriving aviation sector.

It was a foregone conclusion — through a mere formality, so to speak — that Darlington Karnley, the only man President George Manneh Weah saw fit to serve at the helm of the Liberia Airport Authority, would not survive the Senate confirmation proceedings.

In spite of glaring evidence of Karnley’s own lack of qualification, the Senate, months ago, had started to seriously consider the idea of outsourcing the country’s only functioning airport, Roberts International (RIA).

So it was no surprise — yet a welcome sigh of relief for many — that the Senate Plenary declined Karnley’s confirmation. Voting on the record on August 31, 17 Senators voted to reject nominee Karnley, one voted in favor, while five Senators abstained.

The majority decision to reject the LAA Managing Director-designate was triggered by a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Transport headed by Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Flomo Naatehn.

In its report to the Plenary, the Committee acknowledged that the nominee lacked the requisite academic qualifications and experience to provide supervision over the LAA, especially the Roberts International Airport (RIA), which has drawn the attention of the public in recent months.

The Committee further indicated the Airport needs a Managing Director that has the academic qualifications and experience to handle the structural management crisis at the RIA.

Put in perspective, whoever takes the helm of the Liberia Airport Authority is responsible for not just RIA, but also James Spriggs Payne Airport and all other domestic airports in the country. A hefty task, no doubt, requiring a leader with a great wealth of experience to revive Liberia’s once thriving aviation sector.

According to the Senate Committee, Karnley was definitely not the man for the job. His profile, released by the Weah administration, failed to state where he completed his undergraduate studies. However, it was gathered that he attended Cuttington University for three years and did not finish the course requirements to obtain his bachelor’s degree.

Instead, he traveled to the United States. But the nail in the coffin for Karnley’s LAA prospects was the fact that his profile, as published on the Executive Mansion website — managed by the office of the President — was replete with convoluted qualifications and work experiences that he could not defend.

Among other things, Karnley’s profile as shared by the President’s office said that Karnley worked at Boeing, America’s leading aircraft manufacturer as an “Avionics Tech Specialist Manager,”. His profile said he was also a Master’s Degree Candidate in Aviation Management from the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM), located in Philadelphia.

Both of these assertions proved to be completely false and, when confronted by the Senators, Karnley claimed deniability, telling the Senators that he “do[es] not work for the Office of the President”, who nominated him for the job in the first place.

Following the vote, Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay filed a motion for reconsideration, to be tried in three session days. But said the motion was in minutes withdrawn by the Sinoe County Senator on grounds that he is unable to obtain the numbers to overturn the majority decision.

Thomas Doe Nah Confirmed

Also during its late afternoon session on August 31, the Senate confirmed Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Thomas Doe Nah, following recommendations contained in a report from the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget, as well as Public Accounts & Audits.

The report declared that Nah possesses the requisite credentials and has exhibited high performance since his occupation of said position in 2018. Nah confirmation comes as his administration between 2018 and 2021 collected an aggregate domestic revenue of US$1.954 billion. This amount is well above the USS$1.796 billion collected in the previous four years (2014-2017), according to the LRA.

“At the same time, the compound annual growth rate for the last four years was 8.3% compared to the 0% realized between 2014 and 2017,” said Nah, who was reappointed to his post by President George Weah on August 23. “The digital revolution is one of those inspiring forces for growth and the LRA does not seem to be stopping as it moves towards the annual billions mark.”

Nah, a 2016 graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has steered the LRA’s push for automation of tax payment processes — as he introduced and employed consistent initiatives to revolutionize revenue administration and tax payment in the country.

The result has been more computerizing filling in of tax payment and services at the LRA, ranging from electronic filing for large and medium taxpayers, acquisition of tax clearance electronically, declaring through customs digital ASYCUDA platform, Direct Bank Transfer as well as uptake in mobile tax payment across government ministries and agencies.

This, according to Nah, expanded revenue intake and growth even in the most difficult times of humanity – Covid 19. Following the vote, President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, acting on behalf of Plenary, mandated the Secretary of the Senate to communicate the decision of the Senate to the President. Nah, will now be heading LRA for another five years.

Meanwhile, the Senate also voted to ratify three financing agreements. Financing Agreement (Liberia Urban Resilience Project) between Republic of Liberia and International Development Association; Loan Agreement between the Republic of Liberia and African Development Fund, Mano River Union Road Development and Transport Facilitation Programme-Phase-3, as well as loan agreement amongst the Republic of Liberia and African Development Fund (as Administrators of the Transition Support Facility) Mano River Union Road Development and Transport Facilitation Programme.

With regard to the 2023 General and Presidential Elections, the Senate has voted to sign a Joint Resolution with the House of Representatives authorizing the Executive Branch of Government to conduct the 2022 National Census of the Republic of Liberia.

The signing of the Joint Resolution will set the new census date from October 24 to November 7, 2022. Recently, the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) informed the Senate that all is set for the conduct of the National Census, relative to funding and logistics.

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