Liberia: Senate Recommends RIA Outsourced

A Senate Ad-Hoc Committee, chaired by River Gee County Senator Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie, has recommended to Senate plenary that the only successful means of running the Roberts International Airport is to outsource it.

Based on that recommendation contained in a comprehensive report, the Senate yesterday, during its 37th day sitting, took a unanimous decision to communicate with the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, informing him of the need to outsource the Roberts International Airport (RIA).

The Senate’s decision grew out of recommendations from its ad hoc committee, set up weeks ago with the mandate from the Plenary to launch an investigation into structural and management issues and other related matters at the RIA. The ad hoc committee report, among other things, revealed several technical and capacity gaps in the operations of the Airport, ranging from the usage of generators and an obsolete Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS). 

Also contained in the report is that the Cargo and Handling Section of the Airport is not performing up to task due to lack of modern equipment and often rents equipment from outside sources, which suggest that they do not have the capacity to perform the task assigned to. 

The Senate ad hoc committee had earlier observed that the airport runs on three generators — two of which are currently out of order; that the RIA uses 800 gallons of fuel per day for its operations, at a monthly cost of US$148,000 (yearly US$1,785,600). 

As a result of its findings, amongst others, the AD-HOC Committee is recommending that a solar field be established immediately, in accordance with international standard practice, to provide electricity to the RIA and that the government should purchase additional generators in its short range plan, but consider the purchase of solar panels in the long run. 

Regarding the findings of the committee, Liberia stands a risk of endangering aircraft landing at the RIA with the lack of electricity and proper communication. The committee then called on the plenary to give serious attention to the RIA in order to enhance their performance in adhering to international standards for airports. 

In addition to the decision to write the President to outsource the RIA in dealing with the problems confronting the Airport, the Senate has also resolved to conduct a public hearing with experts and authorities in the sector in order to amicably resolve the matter. 

Having performed its mandate, the ad hoc ommittee set up to investigate structural, management and related matters at the Airport was yesterday declared dissolved and the Committee on Transport has been charged to take charge of all other matters. 

It can be recalled that President Weah recently appointed a new head to manage the RIA following due to the lack of proper managerial leadership, but Mr. Karnley's appearance before the Liberian Senate seems to have hit a hitch, after criticisms that he lacks the requisite qualifications.

Articulating the Senate’s contrary opinion to the President’s appointment, Senator H. Varney G. Sherman earlier told the plenary: “I believe what we need is good management, but unfortunately, let it not be another presidential appointment.” He argued that appointments to government positions have become more politicized, without much attention to competency and demand for results.

The Senator lamented that, instead of the RIA contributing to the country’s annual budget, the country pumps money to the airport to cover deficits.

Since the ascendancy of the George Weah administration in 2018, according to the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), the RIA has reported revenues to the fiscal purse, contrary to Haynes’s claims.

According to LRA, in 2018, the RIA alone generated US$3,937,073.94, while in the 2019 Fiscal year the amount of US$2,521,081.06 was generated. In 2020, the airport generated US$1,200,471.58 and in 2021, LAA generated US$2,169,019.64.