Saving a Sinking Agency: The National Port Authority of Liberia, 2006-2011
Focus: Countering Criminal Economies, Containing Patronage Pressures, Civil Service
Topics: Depoliticization, Training, Payroll/Pay Delivery, Corruption in the Civil Service, Computerization of Records, One-Stop Shops, Pay Reform, Downsizing
Type: Case Studies
Author: Jonathan Friedman
Keywords: international donors, ghost workers, salaries, recruitment, training, retrenchment, security, corruption, GEMAP, NPA, port authority, financial management
In 2006, Liberia’s only functioning seaport was a quagmire, riddled by corruption, cargo theft, and a glut of untrained workers. These problems combined to slow the delivery of relief supplies that were badly needed after a 14-year civil war, which had ended three years earlier. A battle site, the Freeport of Monrovia suffered from war damage and years of neglect. It was in danger of shutting down completely. The responsibility to upgrade the infrastructure and improve management lay with the National Port Authority (NPA), a state-owned enterprise that operated the Freeport. From 2006 through 2011, Togba Ngangana, George Tubman and Matilda Parker, successive managing directors at the NPA, enacted a series of reforms to restore the authority and port operations. The Liberian government and outside donors agreed to hire internationally recruited financial controllers to work with NPA directors on fiscal matters. Together, the directors and controllers put in place new systems that helped the NPA collect revenue and prevent unnecessary expenses, installed an automated financial management system, reduced staff size, trained remaining workers, and improved the Freeport’s security infrastructure to meet standards of the International Maritime Organization. This case chronicles the steps reformers took to improve the management of a politically sensitive agency in a post-conflict setting.