LET’S LECTURE: Nathan Tulay Again?

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What is this thing with President Sirleaf and recycling people? She has re-appointed Mr. Nathan Tulay as managing director of the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC), the company that is responsible for producing and delivering potable water to us.

This is the same Nathan Tulay that she sacked some years ago. There was some talk of self-dealing. There was a bid for a US1 million contract funded by the European Commission. Bids were submitted, and then overnight they were opened, not in public, but in secret and the contract awarded to a company in which Mr. Tulay was alleged to have an undisclosed, secret interest. The company was operating out of his house next to Greenland Supermarket.

So, why is the president bringing Mr. Tulay back to the same position? Is she telling us that she was wrong for sacking him in the first place? Or does she want us to believe that he is a reformed man and that he will not engage in acts of corruption again? Or does she have a narcissistic impulse to allow him an opportunity to rake in like many of her other officials are doing in the twilight of her administration because we are in “injury time” now?

Some people believe there is a more sinister motive afoot here. They argue that President Sirleaf has made this appointment in order to give the Unity Party a leg up in the forthcoming elections. You see, Mr. Tulay is from Lofa County, the same county that the Vice President calls home. Perhaps, the argument goes, this appointment is an attempt to burnish the Vice President’s campaign team with yet another high profile foot soldier in the onward march to Election 2017, in which Vice President Boakai is a declared candidate.

Should we be worried, should our donor partners be worried that Mr. Tulay will take advantage of this new-found opportunity to once again indulge in questionable deals, doling out contracts to cronies willing to skim some off the top to fill the Unity Party’s campaign coffers? Given the deep problems the corporation has, the solution to which may involve a great deal of spending over the next two years, that fear is not totally unfounded.

To recap, according to an allafrica.com report, the corporation is losing revenue at the rate of US$31,500 per day, almost US$950,000 per month, US$11.5 million, because 75 percent of the water it produces is not reaching customers. And in my last column I recommended that the corporation consider awarding performance-based service contracts to private sector contractors who can assist it to solve this problem. Given the history of our public corporations, it is entirely possible that a corrupt LWSC management could award service contracts that conveniently omit the “performance based” feature, with the end objective of generating healthy under-the-table commissions for itself and its political masters. That is the real danger here.

So, the relevant question here is, can President Sirleaf not find anyone else in the Republic of Liberia with the requisite management experience and business acumen to rescue LWSC other than Mr. Nathan Tulay? If she thinks not, then I suggest she look again, scour her database and come up with another name. And if she wants, I will gladly offer my assistance, pro bono, to help her and her LWSC board of directors conduct a search and find a suitable candidate.

Water, like electricity, is a critical infrastructure requirement for development. If we get it right, investors will appear, our economy will rebound and our young people will have jobs. If we continue the way we have been doing, President Sirleaf’s Agenda for Transformation will remain just that: a worthless piece of paper. There is an old saying that a plan without a credible mechanism for execution is just a wish.

The writer is a certified public accountant and a businessman. He can be reached at ([email protected])

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