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Opinion

Oped – No to Maritime Autonomy!

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Reading in Frontpageafrica.com August 2, 2010 story, (Maritime Authority Act: Commissioner Kesselly Seeks More Financial Autonomy) one question needs to be asked, Why??? The Bureau of Maritime Affairs is nothing more than a liaison service between the Government of Liberia and our contractor, Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry, LISCR. Why should more authority be given? From what should the commissioners be immune?

Corruption?  Financial Mismanagement?  Abuse of Office?

This request should be rejected in the unequivocally and strongest terms!

The Maritime Agency of the Republic is nothing more than an overseer of the transfer of funds from LISCR to the Revenue Agency of Liberia, the Finance Ministry.  As eloquently stated by the former Commissioner, Mr. Urey, the Agency does not self manage the registry, rather, contracts the daily management and all functions to a 3rd party, LISCR. Therefore, there is no need to give the Bureau any powers of autonomy, moreover, the ability to borrower and invest independent of the national government.  An autonomy status will only lead to further corrupt practices and mismanagement of its resources.

Additionally, the BMA commissioners should not be exempt from the audit by the General Auditing Commission (GAC). In fact, the bureau should be audited, both, by the GAC and an independent auditing service. The revenues from the BMA are vital to the national budget of the republic. This has been the case since the inception of the agency. Any attempt to have the BMA and its commissioner’s exempt from the audit of the GAC will only further the misuse and abuse of the resources in its control. The BMA and its commissioners are not above the law. They are not independently elected. The BMA do not derive their power from the constitution. There is no need for the creation of another empty self serving bureaucracy.

Moreover, the premise of the proposed Act for tenure of 7 years to show continuity is nothing more than room to cover up any financial shenanigans and corrupt practices. The commissioners should serve at the leisure of the President of any administration. This will in some way provide check and balance, given a change of administration. Each successive administration should be given the authority to appoint whomever it chooses. The argument that 7 years gives continuity is not justified as the Bureau is not the independent manager of the daily functions of the registry; rather it is run by a 3rd party, LISCR.

This proposed Act is one that is not embedded with the best practices of good governance and transparency. The Liberian Legislature should in all respect, unequivocally, reject the entire proposed Act. What is being proposed is already being done by LISCR. Let keep the BMA honest and just the way it is, in its current form. The BMA and LISCR should both be audited by the GAC and an independent auditing firm for best practices of financial and operational management, and for greater transparency. This is working and any changes will be a further duplication of duties.

By Ramses K Nah, McKinney, Texas – Ramses_nah@yahoo.com

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