20 February 2014

Liberia: Lawmakers Probe Nocal's U.S.$118, 400 Lobby Fees

Photo: Liberian Legislature
Members of the Liberian legislature in session (file photo).

The former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia has denied having any hint of the US$118, 400 spent in the House of Representatives as lobbying fees.

Appearing before the Joint Committee on Public Accounts of both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate Wednesday in the William Richard Tolbert Joint Chambers at the Capitol Building, Mr. Clemenceau Urey said, during the transaction of the funds by the authorities of the National Oil Company of Liberia with some members of the House of Representatives, he had left for the United States on a private visit.

Mr. Urey, however, admitted to the Board's approval of US$50,000 borrowed from the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company for the purpose of lobbying with the Liberian Legislature for the passage of petroleum contracts.

By his admission, he is saying that he and the Board Members were aware of the disbursement from the borrowed US$50,000 from LPRC to a Member of the National Legislature and the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Former Montserrado County District #1 Representative Alomiza Ennos, received US$40,000 as authenticated by the receipt issued by her, while the late Chief Clerk of the House James Kaba, received US$1,500 as also authenticated by a receipt issued by him.

But according to the General Auditing Commission's audit report conducted on the public entity, NOCAL spent US$118,400 on lobbying for the passage of the national oil bill that lingered protracted period of time in the corridors of the Capitol Building.

The money in question was approved by the NOCAL Board then headed by Clemenceau Urey as "lobbying fees" to some members of the Liberian Legislature for the purpose of approving or ratifying petroleum contracts that were before the body. The amount has sparked serious concerns among lawmakers and other national actors here over the whereabouts of the US$118,400.

The Public Account Committee (PAC) has stretched out its authority, summoning several individuals of interest as it relates to 'management and expenditure' of the huge sum reportedly offered by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) as "lobby fees" to influence the approval and/or ratification of petroleum contracts of oil companies.

Mr. Urey, twice defeated in the Montserrado County Senatorial race, noted that his role at the time with the oil company was to provide policy and supervisory roles, not to interfere with financial and daily operation of the institution.

However, the current leadership of NOCAL headed by Dr. McClain said it could not account for the spending as only a single senior member of the regime involved is still in the employ of the entity. Meanwhile, the committee has rescheduled the public hearing to a date to be announced later.

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