The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Snowe Accuses Sirleaf, NOCAL, But...

Montserrado County District # 6 Representative, Edwin Melvin Snowe, has accused the Chairman of the Board of the National Oil Company and son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf of giving instructions to reimburse payments of US$28, 276, 19 for air travel expenses and hotel accommodations in favor of NOCAL for his "pro bono services" made to his Wells Fargo account number; 4000823640, in the United States.

A bank payment voucher from the National Oil Company dated March 23, 2012 in possession of the INQUIRER reveals that the money was paid to Mr. Sirleaf for a trip he made to London and Houston, Texas, USA to meet with the chairman of African Petroleum in London and with Chevron, Anadarko, and TGS in Houston, Texas the USA.

Speaking to Journalists yesterday at a press conference held at the Capitol Building, Rep. Snowe, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives said the issue at NOCAL is of grave concern and must be addressed immediately.

The Montserrado County lawmaker referred to Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf as a "So Called Pro Bono Executive Chairman" of the Board of Directors of NOCAL as receiving more than what other board chairs are receiving.

Rep. Snowe accused Mr. Sirleaf of being a taxpaying citizen of the United States of America with US Passport number; 2181983813, issued June 7, 2006 and at the same time possessing a Liberian diplomatic passport number; D 000189 issued December 2, 2009, which puts him in a dual citizen capacity. He argued that the law of Liberia does not grant dual citizenship and as such, he is calling on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to immediately discharge Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf from all activities of the Government of Liberia and have him turned over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.

Mr. Snowe added that Mr. Sirleaf has received thousands of US dollars representing per diem, first class air tickets, five star hotel bills inclusive of entertainment and incidental payments for each and every trip made in the name of NOCAL which are not determined by any set policy at NOCAL.

"As far as I know, board chairpersons in Liberia are not paid anyway, so why call your services "pro bono" when you are receiving everything other board chairs are receiving, plus more? Why would Mr. Sirleaf try to play on the intelligence of the Liberian people"? Rep. Snowe asked.

The lawmaker said Mr. Sirleaf is also in violation of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia, the Liberian Codes Revised, VOL. Il: Chapter 22; Page 193.22.1 Acts Causing Loss of Citizenship.

He also said from and after the effective date of this title, a person who is a citizen of Liberia whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his citizenship by; obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon the application of a duly authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person; provided that citizenship shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person is under the age of 21 years, unless such person shall fail to enter Liberia to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-third birthday.

He said the danger in this situation, with Mr. Sirleaf, a US citizen, serving as Senior Advisor to the President of Liberia, and so called pro bono Chairman of the Board of NOCAL is that, it is possible that in the event of any dubious or advert issue against the interest of the Republic (which is now emanating at NOCAL under Mr. Sirleaf's chairmanship), the Government will lack the authority to prosecute Mr. Sirleaf because he will take off to his country of citizenship, the United States of America.

Rep. Snowe said it is important for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to retrospect the cases of Saddam Hussein and the involvement of his sons in running the affairs of Iraq; Col. Maummar Gaddafi and the involvement of his sons in running the affairs of Libya; Hussein Mubarak and sons in running the affairs of Egypt and next door neighbor of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade and his son in running the affairs of Senegal.

"Let President Sirleaf understand that she must separate the Presidency from family. We saw official photos from Japan where the President and her son with other family members were at the head table at an official meeting whilst senior ministers of government were at the back. A few days later after it was noticed, the photo disappeared from the Front Page Africa website. Liberia is not the newly formed monarchy in West Africa nor is Liberia the next Equatorial Guinea where the son of the President is also his Vice President with oversight of the oil sector," Rep. Snowe stated with utmost seriousness.

Mr. Snowe's accusation came about as a result of claims and counter-claims between the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government with specific reference to the administration of the Oil and Gas Sector by the National Oil Company of Liberia, (NOCAL). He said recently the Liberian people have read articles and listened to accusations and character assassination; in particular, a talk show aired on a radio station owned by the Vice President for communications of NOCAL, against members of the National Legislature.

Against this background, the lawmaker said he has decided to defend and protect his character and to elevate the public debate surrounding activities at NOCAL.

He said last week while he was away visiting family and friends out of the country, some serious accusations levied against the Honorable Speaker, the President Pro Temp of the Liberian Senate, several of his colleagues and he from the House of Representatives by one Mr. Henry Costa (a local radio talk show host), all in an attempt to assassinate his character based on falsehood with regards to NOCAL giving Block 13 to Chevron at half the amount offered by Gazprom, a giant Russian Oil and Gas Company even when Chevron had not participated in the bid for the block.

Meanwhile, a release issued last night by the Vice President for Public Affairs Mr. Israel A. Akinsanya II says NOCAL wishes to set the record straight regarding our stewardship of national resources and its compliance with the Public Financial Management (PFM) Laws of Liberia.

Earlier this year, the release said NOCAL commissioned an audit of its financial records and systems for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. Mr. Akinsanya said the intention is to put the results of those audits online and make them available to the wider public. We noted that the audit will pay special attention to the year 2011 and Liberian interests held in that concession. Beyond the audits, the release went on to say however, private citizens, law makers and other stakeholders can also file Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for NOCAL's financial records and those records will be made available to them. SEE FULL TEXT BELOW:

PRESS STATEMENT

October 30, 2012

The National Oil Company of Liberia wishes to set the record straight regarding our stewardship of national resources and our compliance with the Public Financial Management (PFM) Laws of Liberia. Earlier this year, we commissioned an audit of our financial records and systems for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. The intention is to put the results of those audits online and make them available to the wider public. We noted that the audit will pay special attention to the year 2011 and Liberian interests held in that concession. Beyond the audits, however, private citizens, law makers and other stakeholders can also file Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for NOCAL's financial records and those records will be made available to them.

Today, Hon. EdwinSnowe released a barrage of half-truths and falsehoods which if not taken in its proper contexts would suggest that NOCAL is being mismanaged and is financially imprudent. It is important that we set the record straight. Contrary to the claims of Mr. Snowe, NOCAL is accountable; its financial processes are transparent; and rather than seeking information through the backdoor, Mr. Snowe could have walked through the front doors of NOCAL, as we continue to invite all Liberians to do, and request the total records.

Hon. Snowe should be quite angry and disappointed. This new management of NOCAL cannot afford to be less than transparent and accountable to the public. One important aspect of our duties, on behalf of the Liberian people, is to negotiate with publicly traded international companies. For us, representing the people of Liberia, it is important that we remain a credible partner. It is therefore in this light that we have to set the record straight, be opened in financial disclosures, and conduct ourselves with respect and credibility.

In keeping with the terms of his appointment as Chairman of the Board of Directors of NOCAL, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, is actively performing his role and duties as Chairman. The management is happy to observe that Mr. Sirleaf has accepted both the title and the responsibilities of the office of chairman. We now have a Chairman who does not sit at home in Monrovia and assumes that progressive reforms in the sector would 'just happen' nor does Mr. Sirleaf assume that major, responsible, expert international oil companies would be attracted to this country without effort, representation and painstaking negotiations with the development partners.

At this most critical time, what Liberia needs, and what NOCAL is proud to have, is a Chairman who is committed to working hard at the role and in service to his country - a Chairman who is getting out there in the world, telling the story of Liberia's potential, both as a possible future oil producer and as an emerging nation full of opportunity.

Thanks to these efforts, and the assistance of others, NOCAL will shortly be announcing the signing of a major new partnership with one of the largest, most experienced and most expert oil companies in the world. In addition to the country's existing partnership with Chevron, this new partnership is incredibly good news for Liberia. This exciting new partnership can be credited, in no small measure, to the hard work of the Chairman in representing the National Oil Company and the country's oil sector in international meetings and negotiations.

The management of NOCAL wishes to make it resoundingly clear and the financial records are available to all for independent confirmation: The Chairman receives no compensation of any sort that is available to other members of the NOCAL Board. Additionally, the Chairman receives no compensation which is generally reserved for chairpersons or members of Boards of autonomous agencies and public corporations in Liberia. However, when Mr. Sirleaf makes an expense in keeping with his function as chair of the Board of NOCAL, those amounts, when verified are reimbursed to him.

Accordingly, when the Chairman of the Board travels, along with the IMCC, to meet and negotiate with partners, his travel, accommodation and daily subsistence allowance are covered by the company. The terms of Mr. Sirleaf's appointment to the Board is that he will not receive board fees or payments for his professional services and that NOCAL will only bear the costs of NOCAL-related expenses which he undertakes personally after verification. Mr. Sirleaf and the management of NOCAL have remained steadfast to these undertakings.

We challenge anyone to refute this claim and urge anyone with contrary information to make them available to the Justice Ministry or the LACC. NOCAL is also prepared to commission a snap audit of all expenditures related to activities by the Chair in his official capacity.

Israel A. Akinsanya II

Vice President Public Affairs

National Oil Company of Liberia

0777557700

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