Tuesday, March 10, 2009



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei
pericle925@yahoo.com / www.ibrahimnyei.blogspot.com

The Liberia Telecommunication Authority was created by an Act of the Legislature to regulate telecommunications and frequency bands in the country. The LTA is part of the general public sector reform process aimed at ensuring efficiency in the delivery of services nation wide. Like many public commissions, members are appointed with a Chair to preside over its meetings and break ice when there are tied votes. Little did many know that the frequency zone is a major source of revenue in this country, but its effective regulation to maximize gains for the country was realized with the formation of the LTA, and the migration of moguls in the communication business into the country. In less than two years of its operations, its first chairman was hooked in a dubious deal with the West African Telecommunications which exposed its revenue generation capacity to many ordinary Liberians. The major problem observed was the balloon-infliction of the position of chairmanship which the first Chairman used in his attempt to dub his colleagues and the Liberian people. Little did he know that even a rubber balloon when improperly or over filled with air can explode and become irrelevant, particularly when the pressure exceeds its capacity. But this confusion and its resultant effect with the chairmanship issue of the LTA has not taught much lessons to those who are there now, as another inferno has begun to sink the regulating Authority into a crisis born out of an apparent lack of internal regulatory framework.

In all cases, there is no chairman of a public commission that is clothed with an authoritarian garment to unilaterally and sub-terraineously function without regular consultations with other members of the commission. But the case with the LTA has proven counterconsistent with conventional practices in the few months of its operations. The media's attention had been drawn to its activities and it seems that the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Albert Bropleh had been caught hanging in a web of trilemas- failure to consult fellow members of the commission, failure to comply with auditors, and the self-crowning with an imperial leadership helmet. Bropleh on the other side of the divide had resurged with counterclaims. This and previous controversies at the LTA had magnetized the attention of pundits, and in the interest of furthering the national debate, and remaining constructive in engaging issues with the pen, this edition of the series had been preoccupied by the developments at the LTA and is therefore calling for immediate ceasefire, calm and order.

If our telecommunication systems will improve with consumers getting the maximum satisfactions from service providers and the service providers being regulated in a way that the chain is truly balanced - suppliers and consumers satisfied-this outcome will be based on a robust regulatory system. Regulating communication frequencies, bands, and all other telecommunication activities is much more like a saint presiding over a religious shrine whose deportment influences and direct the lives of his followers. The LTA therefore needs to be transparent and consistent with rules and regulations in order to be taken seriously and revered by its clients.

The internal rivalry at the LTA if not curtailed is capable of robbing it of its reverence in regulating our telecommunication systems, and we the consumers stand at a dangerous peril when the regulating agency is in internal feud. With prominent Liberians like Lamini Waritay, a long time public servant and redoubtable journalist this country can boast of, Commissioner Jappah-Samuka, Commissioner York, and others, the LTA can make a professional team to rely on. We expect the differences to be settled with majority votes as it is the case with public commissions that have commissioners with a ceremonious chairman whose power is only felt during elections. Differences in policies and ideological issues are never crashed over in the form and manner exhibited at the LTA. The problem identified now is that the nomenclature of 'Chairman' is being misconstrued thereby making Commissioner Bropleh to believe that he is an overhead boss, presiding over policy issues, meetings, and at the same time running the administration of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority.

Considering this complication of nomenclature and function which to some extent is building an imperial leadership that has met the conscious resistance of other Commissioners at the LTA, it is however prudent to recommend that the LTA hire the services of full time staffs under the supervision of a full time Executive Director, Executive Secretary, or Administrator, who shall be responsible for the financial, administrative and managerial operations of the LTA. With this at hand, the commissioners will mostly focus on regulatory policies and governance issues and the fear of dominance on the commission shall be extensively obliterated. As we can see with prominent commissions like the Governance Commission, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the newly created Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, commissioners are preoccupied with policies and governance while the central administration is run by full time employees.

The feud at the LTA had also led to the leakage of several important financial documents detailing several transactions. On matters of such, only a well commissioned forensic audit can authenticate claims of misappropriation and theft of state resources. The LTA must therefore open its books to the General Auditing Commission for audit and should stop postponing or delaying scheduled audit if there is nothing under the sleeves to quarantine from public notice. We therefore rely on the viability and objectivity of the GAC to transform our rumors into facts or establish their current mixtures as truisms that need not be debated any further.

Finally, there is nothing more relevant in rescuing the LTA from drowning in a pool of corruption that will render it incompetent and incapable of regulating of frequency zones and generating revenues for our country than a system of genuine internal governance, cooperation and regular consultations among commissioners, an effective central administration and a transparent and accountable managerial framework. We believe that these will be important than to allow such relevant institution drown with the tarnishing of the good reputations of other commissioners who have outstanding records of services to this country and its people.

-In The Cause of Democracy and Social Justice, The Pen Shall Never Run Dry-