The Analyst (Monrovia)

11 August 2014

Liberia: No Secrecy in Bid Round - NOCAL Says Evidence of Transparent Bid Lies Bare

Oil is perhaps the most covetous natural resource, a characterization that therefore makes it the “quarrel’s gem”. This fact is showing evidence of fruition even long before Liberia’s find of its version of hydrocarbon even becomes concretely confirmed. While some pundits think the hullaballoo over the oil and gas sector is worth it—that it is a necessary quarrel that would perfect the process of its proceed dispensation—others say the Liberian oil debate is a product of deliberate perversion on the part of some citizens to unnecessarily fan the flames of disquiet to undermine the gains that are about. Whatever the case, the “quarrel gem” is justifying its nature to the letter, witnessing unfavorable interpretation day in day out. And the state entity responsible to manage the country’s oil regime remains concurrently restless in countering twisted information against the sector. In a press release circulated yesterday, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) issued yet another clarification rebuttal against media reports that its current bid round for four oil blocks is being done in secret. The Analyst reports.

Since August 5, the Liberia Oil Company has been announcing the open of another bid round for four oil blocks. The announcement of the bid was widely publicized by the media, a section of which has seen the notice from different angles, some reporting it as a matter of sale of the blocks and others a process done secretly.
The Liberia Oil Company has not been letting these reports lying down. In a Press Release issued on August 11, 2014, the Company refuted the reports which charged that the oil blocks were being sold to foreigners. According to NOCAL countered that the reports got it absolutely wrong and that Liberian oil belongs to Liberia and Liberians and the bid was intended to issue exploration permits to interested entrepreneurs.

Before inks got dry on the clarification, another report emerged accusing NOCAL of conducting the latest bid round in secret. And quickly, the Liberian oil superintendent reacted sharply, saying that its attention is “drawn to a front page banner headline story in the Wednesday, August 13, 2014 edition of the News newspaper, captioned ‘Gov’t Negotiates Oil Deal Secretly.’”

NOCAL states categorically in a press release issued yesterday that “there is no secrecy in negotiations surrounding the ongoing bidding process.”
“Certainly, the process cannot be ‘shrouded in secrecy’ when a press release announcing the bid round has since been posted on the official website of the Ministry of Information at: http://micatliberia.com/index.php/blog/latest-news/922-nocal-to-conduct-bidding-process.html) and NOCAL’s (http://www.nocal.com.lr/news-and-media/competitive-bidding-for-oil-blocks-lb-6-lb-7-lb-16-and-lb-17).

Release facts surrounding the latest bid round, NOCAL said the process began with an announcement on the bid round in a news release published on August 5, 2014, and posted on the website of the Ministry of Information.

NOCAL says the pronouncement made it clear that the bid round was authorized by Government to seek the assistance of TGS (the company that handles the geological data that companies use to decide where to drill for oil) and a reputable international auditing firm, in conducting an international bidding process in a manner that is transparent and competitive, and in accordance with international best practices, in order to ensure the maximum possible benefit for Liberia.

According to NOCAL, it has proceeded, accordingly, with the Government’s directive and has issued a notice to all oil and gas companies about the bid round and interested companies have got until October 31, 2014 to submit their proposals.

The Company stated in a press release that it has since engaged the services of a reputable and independent international firm, Ernst & Young, to oversee the process and that the firm will be responsible for opening the bids and assisting with the evaluation, and will report to NOCAL following the process.
NOCAL further clarifies that interested companies have to prequalify, meaning that companies have to prove that they have experience, money and good management to be allowed to bid. Prequalification helps to ensure that only the best companies can participate in the bid round.

“The bidding process will be credible and transparent in keeping with NOCAL’s core principles,” said NOCAL CEO Dr. Randolph A. K. W. McClain. “Various organizations have provided and continue to assist Liberia in these difficult times. We have a unique and great opportunity to complement their efforts by demonstrating that we can also do something for ourselves. Why shouldn’t that opportunity be used?”

Dr. McClain noted that there is no secret that “we have begun the bid round to see how much revenue we can generate for our country, rather than depending on the international community to do it all.”

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