3 March 2014

Liberia: NOCAL 'Bribery Saga' Resurrected

A General Auditing Commission (GAC) audit report has recommended that former Montserrado County Representative now Board Chairman of the National Transit Authority (NTA) Alomiza Ennos Barr should restitute US$40,000 she allegedly received from the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) as payment for purported lobby fees to ratify concession contracts in the oil sector.

The findings of the GAC audit report suggest that former Representative Barr acknowledged receiving US$15,000 of the US$40,000, but she signed two separate receipts for US$25,000 and US$15,000 on the same day.

The findings further suggest that Barr claimed to have reported the alleged bribe to members of the House Committee on Investment & Contracts at the time, but there is no evidence to substantiate her claim, as members of the committee, including its chairman at the time former Montserrado County Representative Rufus Neufville denied before former GAC boss John Morlu, II of receiving money from her(Barr).

The alleged bribery saga resurrected recently when the former board chairman of NOCAL, Mr. Clemenceau Urey openly admitted to bribery.

Mr. Urey made the confession when he appeared before the Joint Legislative Public Account Committee(PAC) of the National Legislature to give account for money spent under his chairmanship at the institution.

The hearing took into consideration the GAC reports of 2006/08/09 on NOCAL.

Among other things, the GAC report said there were several irregularities, including lobby fees that were paid by NOCAL to lawmakers as inducement to pass several contracts.

The former NOCAL chairman admitted that he approved the payment of US$50,000 to lawmakers before ratifying oil contracts intended to benefit the country and its people.

However, he told the lawmakers that he was not informed by his colleagues that they gave them(lawmakers) additional money which amounted to US$118,000 as lobby fees. There are mounting calls for Mr. Urey to be prosecuted since he openly confessed to bribery. The NTA board chairman, who is also at the center of the bribery saga, has not commented on the unfolding developments.

Accordingly, the GAC audit report made no mention of former Rep. Neufville, the then chairman of the committee and other members of the committee of receiving and signing for money from NOCAL as in the case of Barr.

When this paper quizzed Mr. Neufville over the weekend regarding reports in some quarters that he allegedly received bribe from NOCAL, he described the reports as "complete rubbish"

The newly appointed Chief of Protocol of Liberia, who spoke very briefly on the matter, referred those accusing him to the GAC audit report. " The GAC audit report is very clear on the issue, it tells you all those who are liable for the act, and there is nowhere in that report the name Rufus Neufillve is mentioned to restitute money, " he stated. He then threatened to sue anyone who falsely maligns his reputation.

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