Dear Shareholder Prime Ministers:
Re: Take Ownership
My letters of August 11 and 19 to the LIAT Board and Chairman respectively were written after LIAT’s worse crisis in its 56-year history had stretched into its third month with no clear explanation of the crisis and with no one accepting responsibility despite clear indications of management and planning errors. It was on that basis that I called for “heads to roll”.
As the crisis now stretches into its fourth month (see latest list of incidents attached) the calls for transparency and accountability have grown louder but remain unanswered.
As the effective “owners” of LIAT, the final decision lies with you. You can follow the path of LIAT’s leadership and ignore the calls for transparency and accountability or you can take ownership and act in the interest of your citizens, your visitors and your economies.
Your CEO’s explanations of the crisis have included a long list of issues (unscheduled maintenance, crew shortages, bad weather, airport limitations, delays in obtaining licenses for operating the new ATR aircraft in some territories, and a dire financial situation due to failure by your governments to deliver on committed finance, difficulty in selling Dash-8 aircraft and a 10 per cent decline in revenue). He has taken no direct responsibility for the crisis and admitted to no errors, laying the blame on God and You.
In a brazen act of self-preservation and back scratching, your CEO has rejected a call from many, including the Leeward Island Airline Pilots Association, for an independent investigation into the crisis, choosing instead a “full post-mortem on what went wrong”, the objective of which would also be to reward staff for their “heroic duties and human service”. And those who “dropped the ball” would be identified “for counselling or better training.”
If after a crisis as deep and wide as this, your CEO is allowed to get away with blocking an independent investigation (in which he would surely be the primary target) and throwing some niceties at staff (in order to calm a revolt), then it surely explains the culture of unaccountability that has led to EC$344m in accumulated deficits at the end of 2012 (sure to grow larger in 2013 as a result of the current mess). Now add to that the gamble of EC$250m+ on the re-fleeting exercise and you end up with a half billion-dollar burden gift-wrapped in perpetual unaccountability that is now your responsibility.
Break the cycle
If no one is ever held accountable, then no matter how bad it is, it doesn’t matter, and so it just keeps getting worst.
As owners, I appeal to you to hold LIAT’s board and executive Team to a much higher standard of performance, one that delivers a great customer experience and a solid financial performance.
As owners, I appeal to you to reorganise and restructure the board of directors and executive team and to hold them accountable to achieve the necessary objectives, giving them the autonomy and authority, free from political interference.
As owners, I appeal to you to be owners, to step up and to act in the interest of your citizens, your visitors and your economies and to break the cycle of perpetual unaccountability.
As Victor Hugo said: “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” The idea that LIAT can be and must be an airline that is well managed and delivers a great customer experience and a solid financial performance has come. Constant disappointment, dismay and disruption must become a thing of the past. Half billion-dollar burdens on our treasuries must end.
A culture of perpetual accountability and competent leadership must begin. Take ownership, usher it in.
It is time to care. It is time for change. Heads must roll.
Owner/Director – Secret Bay
Executive Chairman – Fort Young Hotel