1 July 2014

Liberia: NOCAL Answers Critics, Heralds Gains, Deflects Criticisms

Monrovia — The President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Dr. Randolph McClain said NOCAL has performed impressively, in managing the oil sector and that the present management has achieved more in terms of accomplishments in the sector than at any other time in the recent past.

"Yes, for sure, we do respect and recognize past accomplishments, but our statement today will show that we have significantly improved upon those past accomplishments," said Dr. McClain.

"We wish to let it be known that what we will always reject and frown upon is when such observations, views and opinions are not grounded in facts. True, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but certainly not to his or her own facts."

At a news conference held in Monrovia on Monday, June 30, 2014, the NOCAL CEO said based on available evidence supported by facts, the company has in recent times accelerated its programmatic and developmental strides across many levels of the sector and society as a whole--especially in regard to those projects and activities that touch in very meaningful ways the lives of the ordinary Liberian.

Contributions to National Budget

He said before the onset of the ongoing sector reform, the new leadership at NOCAL under his watch, and the Negotiating Team of the Hydro-Carbon Technical Committee, has contributed tremendously to Liberia's budget over the years. He said an agreement was reached with Exxon Mobil on Block 13, netting for the government more than US$45 Million in 2012/2013 fiscal period.

"This deal has also been described by industry experts as "one of the best ever in the history of frontier countries," he said.

"Additionally, NOCAL contributed nearly 13 Million United States Dollars to the National Budget in 2012/2013, while in 2013/2014, NOCAL has thus far contributed over 14 million United States Dollars."

Local Content

The NOCAL CEO said Under a joint NOCAL-Exxon Linkages initiative, which promotes local content, the oil company has exerted maximum efforts in its interaction with Oil Companies to ensure that they work with Liberian and indigenous businesses in the provision of goods and services that these IOCs need during their operations in the country.

"In other words, the IOCs are now obliged to empower our local businesses in the provision of goods and services for the IOCs instead of contracting foreign companies to do so," he said.

"On the basis of the understanding reached with IOCs concerned, in situations where some of these local companies do not have the capabilities to provide said goods and services, the IOCs will work towards enhancing the capacities of these Liberian businesses to provide the needed services and goods in the future."

Scholarship Program

Dr. McClain said NOCAL's Scholarship program is certainly one of the entity's flagship projects adding that in the past, only modest attempts were made in this direction.

"Since then, especially under the current NOCAL leadership, the scholarship program has been expanded exponentially, and has become much better structured than before," he said.

"For example, while in the past the program was somewhat restrictive in terms of its beneficiary spread and limited number involved, NOCAL has not only significantly increased the number of scholarship beneficiaries, but has now established clear cut and appropriate criteria for granting scholarships."

He said the process of obtaining scholarships from the entity is transparent and criteria governing the process are often published in the media for the benefit of the public adding that beneficiaries or deserving students who come from all over the country and not just from a limited geographical area or a specific community.

"Indeed, from a small number of four (4) students granted NOCAL scholarship to study abroad between 2010/2011, and with 15 beneficiaries in 2011/2012, the present NOCAL leadership is proud to state that in 2012/2013, a total of 20 students benefitted from the scholarship scheme," he said.

"And for the current 2013/2014 period, the entity is processing 33 beneficiaries who are slated to attend various Graduate schools overseas for academic year 2013/2014."

He said from an expenditure of Three Hundred Thousand United States Dollars in 2010/2011, NOCAL is poised to spend over Three Million United States Dollars on the scholarship program in 2013/2014 -- constituting a hundred percent increase in the amount spent on such overseas scholarship grantees in 2010/2011 academic year. The NOCAL CEO said unlike in the past when the scholarship program was randomly implemented, it is now focused and tailored to the needs of the Petroleum industry.

He said students can now specialize in different areas with students studying for postgraduate degrees in oil and gas related disciplines, which include: Petroleum Geosciences, Petroleum Law and Petroleum Accounting/Finance. He said these courses are taken at prestigious universities around the world.

"The universities chosen to train the students are especially qualified in regard to the disciplines and courses the beneficiaries are specializing in," he said.

"Among them are: Texas A & M; Southern New Hampshire University and University of Houston Law Center--all in the USA; University of Westminster and University of Dundee--all in the United Kingdom; and Heriot-Watt University-Dubai, United Arab Emirate (UAE)."

Dr. McClain said NOCAL is also supporting One Thousand Five Hundred and Fifteen (1,513) scholarship beneficiaries locally, attending various institutions in the country and studying in various disciplines relevant to the development of the oil and gas industry and the country as a whole.

"Most of these beneficiaries have been able to complete courses/programs in carpentry, masonry, tailoring, plumbing," he said.

"At the Local level, NOCAL sponsored students can be found at various institutions of learning, including the University of Liberia; Cuttington University; African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZU); United Methodist University (UMU); African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU); Stella Maris Polytechnic; Smythe Institute of Management & Technology; Lofa, Grand Bassa and Leigh-Sherman Community Colleges."

He said NOCAL is Cognizant of the social problems associated with unemployment in society and the present NOCAL leadership under his watch has introduced vocational education as part of its social corporate responsibility.

"Thus, while there was a zero vocational program before the onset of the new leadership, to date (that is, just within a year and half), we now can boast of nearly 1,150 vocational students benefitting from the entity's vocational scholarship program at various institutions--including LOIC (Liberia Opportunity Industrialization Center) in Monrovia & Sinjie); William V. S. Tubman Vocational School in Harper; Salvation Army Vocational Institution, etc," he said.

"And through this effort, NOCAL has invested in many of our young people by lifting them from a state of hopelessness and idleness, to a state where they have become productive and begun benefitting not only themselves and their respective communities, but the country as a whole."

He said NOCAL, under the current leadership, is determined to continue this dynamic educational path now and in the foreseeable future. The NOCAL news conference comes in the wake of the damning open letter addressed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by former NOCAL boss Christopher Z. Neyor in which he made grave allegations of mismanagement of the sector.

But Dr. McClain even though, did not name Neyor but said NOCAL appreciates genuine comments, observations, criticisms and suggestions from any Liberian, but appealed to all such persons and institutions to exercise this citizen participation with honesty and sincerity of purpose. He called on critics of the sector to endeavor to stick to the facts and refrain from negative speculations.

"Meanwhile, our doors remain open to all for any relevant and non-proprietary information regarding our activities," he said.

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