CNDRA Press Statement By P. Bloh Sayeh, Director-General (August 2, 2013)

CNDRA Director General Addressing the Press
CNDRA Director General Addressing the Press
Photo Credit: Lamine Kamara

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, on behalf of the Administration and General Staff of the Center for National Documents, Record Agency (CNDRA) I am most pleased to welcome you to the refurbished home of CNDRA.

As you are aware, during the course of the last two weeks, some employees of CNDRA staged a disruptive protest at our offices which was reported in both the electronic and print media. For instance; some of the papers carried headlines such as “Trouble At Archives Center”, “Explosion at CNDRA” etc.

On Monday,  July 15, predicated on these  stories in the press, I  appointed  a  committee  headed  by  the  Deputy  Director-General  who met  with 14 employees    to  ascertain their  grievances. They promised  to provide  same  in writing.

Sadly, these employees who termed themselves as “Aggrieved Employees” abandoned their duties on Wednesday July 17, to display placards on the street and within the Customer Service area of our facilities, and prevented customers from transacting with us, which impeded our revenue collection as all of our customers had to flee our compound.

Additionally, one of these employees accompanied by his colleagues, obstructed the delivery of power to our facilities by locking the generator room.  Sensing  the danger that might have erupted as a result of these disruptive actions, the Administration immediately called the police and their intervention brought the situation under control.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, while waiting to receive concerns or grievances from these employees, we were instead greeted on Wednesday, July 17  with lawlessness in an attempt by them to cause chaos at CNDRA.

Finally, on  July  22,  a document  was  delivered  to  the Deputy Director-General, signed  by  Mr. Ebenezer Borbor.  He signed on behalf of the “Aggrieved Employees”  and also as a “Whistle Blower”.  Because of the  law regarding  whistle blower,  we  have  turned   this document over  to  our  lawyer  and will  not  be directly responding to  the accusations  made in that  document.  But  there  are  other accusations  made  which  have been  published  by  some of  you  in the media.  I will  have no problem responding  to those.

We suspect  that some of these  accusations  may be  related  to the major transformation that  has  taken  place since  our administration  took over,  four years ago.  Further,  the on-going reform  measures  associated  with the  Digital Scanning Center(DSC) and  the Customer Service Center (CSC) have  put  a major dent into the  organized  revenue  diversion syndicate  that  previously  existed. 

Hence,  we  like to briefly  discuss  the transformation, future  plans for our  Agency,  and  then  take  you on a  tour of  our  facilities.

The  transformation  at  CNDRA  began with  a  small team of  committed  staff back  in  2010  with the help and  guidance of an  experienced  consultant  and  academician,  Dr. Verlon Stone of  Indiana  University. His research results provided  the basis for  the  creation of  our  Digital Scanning Center that we are  so  proud of  today. Dr.  Stone also  provided  us (including me)  orientation in  preparing  and  submitting  funding request to the  World  Bank.  Parallel  with  Dr.  Stone’s assignment,  the  Civil Service Agency  seconded  Mr. Forkpa Kemah, a  US-Trained Library Specialist  to  CNDRA. He immediately joined the core  team of  reformers  in helping to plan and  secure national and  international support for  the  new  CNDRA.

Needless  to say,  we received  the funding from the World Bank for  the  Digital Scanning Center.  We  also got  funding  from  the  Millennium Challenge  Corporation/USAID to help build other aspects of  the agency.  Other funding and material support  came  from such sources  as  Norwegian Refugee Council, that  went  straight  to training  and  capacity building, especial in  computer literacy.  This  paid  off  when  implementation of  the DSC  began in  2011.

The  turning  point  in the transformation of  CNDRA came  when  we recruited  an experienced, US-Trained Liberian Computer  Consultant  through recommendations  from Dr. Stone and a friend of CNDRA, Dr Jeanette Carter.  Mr. Ounzuba Kemeh-Gama was hired with funding from the World Bank in 2011. He brings nearly 30 years  of  IT experience, working both in Liberia and the US.  With Dr. Stone’s research results, support from the WB and MCC and a mandate to  deliver  an  integrated  solution, Ounzuba  has worked tirelessly for nearly two years  to design and develop the  DSC and  CSC.  Today, these  two  units  of  CNDRA  are the pillars  upon which we are managing  our reforms.  At  the  DSC,  all  historical  land deed  records  are  processed  by  a  team of  trained scanning  technicians.  Over  half of the  nearly 800 ledger books  have  been digitized.  Additional  books are expected  from the Archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The  Customer Service Center,  originally  recommended  in a  study done by  Andy Smith (MCC-funded international consultant) is  an  now  an extension of  the  DSC  and  a  one-stop  service point for  all  services  at  CNDRA. The  CSC was  opened  in September  2012.  Since  then,  all  Deed Records  are being  scanned into our  database  instead  of  transcribed by hand into ledger books.  Additionally, all  other  CNDRA services,  including  processing of  Marriage  Certificates  are now  channeled  through  a transparent  customer service area.  New workflows  and  computer systems have  been  introduced  that  help  to reduce  customer  waiting  time,  improve  customer  experience, streamline  processes and improve revenue  collection.  Today, cost for each service is clearly posted outside. The  10 Steps for Land Deed  Registration is posted at our entrance. A cashier booth is in clear sight for billing and receiving of  cash.  All major payments are made at Ministry of Finance by customers.  Smaller LD payments are collected and deposited with MOF weekly by our finance staff.

To support the  CSC and  the  DSC computer systems,  a highly skilled  Network Administrator, Lamine Kamara was  recruited last year in anticipation of  CNDRA’s  Headquarters  being fully  networked and connected  to  the Monrovia Fiber Optic  infrastructure.  We expect  this to happen before the end  of  2013.

I am happy to report that the DSC and CSC are  both managed  by  recently trained CNDRA staff with only oversight by the consultant.

As  part of  this transformation, the Ministry  of  Finance/Central Bank  will very soon be opening  an annex  on  our  premises. This  will  significantly  impact  the  waiting  time and  satisfaction of  our customers.

Members of  the  Press,  recently, we  discovered  and  were  able to  bring  some  very  valuable  national  documents  to  CNDRA.  You are  aware of  this  because  the  President of  Liberia  visited and inspected  these  historical  documents.  The  President  has  already  given  approval  for additional GOL funding  to  assist  us  in the  preserving  these  documents  and  improving  security and  protecting the  premises where these holdings are  kept.

Looking  into  the  future,  we  will  be  placing  considerable  emphasis  on preserving  government  records and  making  them  accessible  to the public  through our  freedom of  information mandate.  During  the tour,  you  will  see  newly renovated  repositories  for  presidential  papers, deed documents and  public  records in general.  In  collaboration with  the Ministry of  Finance,   a new designated  space  is  now  ready  to receive  critical  financial  records  from  2006  to  present, consistent  with the  IMF mandate.  We  believe  this will provide us  an  opportunity  to  pilot  some of our  new  ideas for the  preservation, drawing  on our  recent  experience  with the  Digitization  of  Deeds records.   The  new security initiatives   include  video surveillance, access  control,  and fire suppression for  selected  areas  of  our  premises.

In this  quarter,  we  will begin  transforming  our  county  offices to reflect  some  of  the  reforms  now in place  at our  headquarters in Monrovia.  Our Buchanan  and Ganta  offices  will be  the first  to be  equipped with computers  to  connect  to our  servers here  in order  to provide  similar services  to our  customers  in those areas.

Members of the Press,  all  of these  reforms  could  not  have been possible without  the development  of human capacity.  Hence, we  have  spent  considerable  effort  to  train and retrain  our  staff over the last  four  years.  Recently  nine  members  of  our staff  return from a 6-week  Preservation Training at   Ghana Archives.  A member of  our staff also  returned  over  the weekend from a  9-month IT  training in  Accra.  He will  be taking  up  his position as  Assistant Supervisor  for Technical Support  in the DSC.  More  than 20 members of  our  junior and  senior  staff  completed  various training 2-8 week courses at  LIPA  earlier  this  year.  

We are  very  supportive  of  our  staff in pursuing efforts to improve themselves  and will continue as resources  are  available. Several  staff members  are currently attending  university both at the  undergraduate and graduate  level with our  financial support or flexibility  with working hours.  Our  Deputy Director-General, Mr. Alexander Saylee is  a  student  at the Louis  Arthur Grimes  School of  Law while  the Financial Comptroller,  Personnel Director, Information Director, and Technical Coordinator are  all pursuing  studies at the University of Liberia under CNDRA local scholarship program.

Finally, Members of the Press,  as  we  prepare  to  integrate  all of  our  systems  and  services and move our  Agency forward,  we will be guided by objectivity as we make hard choices and bold decisions. Toward  this end, through assistance from MCC, we have  recruited  a  young  Liberian Consultant with considerable  experience  in  Auditing and project management, Mr. Martin Saye Kolleh.  He  will  be working directly in  my  office to  assist  in transforming  the various  units  of CNDRA  consistent with the mandate of  the Agency.  This  will definitely be a process and not an event  because  we  think it  will be  on-going and deliberately  slow in order  to bring all  of  our employees  along.

Members of  the Press,  I will  now  take  questions  before we  proceed with the tour.



TOUR  Plan   

1.      Digital Scanning  Center

2.      Customer Service Center

Soon to be opened

1.      Ministry of  Finance/Central Bank  branch

2.      MOF  financial document  center