Saving a Sinking Agency: The National Port Authority of Liberia, 2006-2011

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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.

Jonathan Friedman drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia, during September 2011. Case published February 2012.
Associated Interview(s):  Patrick Sendolo
international donors
ghost workers
port authority
financial management
Focus Area(s): 
Civil Service
Containing Patronage Pressures
Countering Criminal Economies
Critical Tasks: 
Civil service corruption
Computerization of records
One-stop shops
Payroll delivery
Salary structure reform
Core Challenge: 
External agencies of restraint
Institutional traps (spoilers)
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform: 
Case Studies
Jonathan Friedman