30 July 2017

Liberia Oil Company, Rob Sirleaf Spot Holes in 'Fabricated' SDI Report On Chevron Funds

Photo: Liberian Observer
Robert Sirleaf speaks to supporters (file photo).

Monrovia — A damning report by the Sustainable Development Institute(SDI), captioned "Who Chopped the Chevron US$10.5 Million" is being greeted with stern resistance and condemnation by the National Oil Company of Liberia and its former board chair Mr. Robert Sirleaf.

"The original, authentic, and publicly available General Auditing Commission (GAC): GAC 2009 - 2011 audit report nor its 2011 - 2015 audit made NO (zero) mention of NOCAL, Chevron, Robert Sirleaf, nor the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation (RASF) as related to the projects and the amount of US$10.5M.

"The audits documents "obtained" and published by SDI are simply a fabrication. "

"At worse, a very poor "cut and paste" job, using NOCAL letterhead, references a GAC report which simply does not exist. If such mentioned would exist, they certainly would have published from the GAC audit" - Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf

The report released at the weekend cites audit documents allegedly obtained from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) pointing to gross misspending of Chevron social development funds by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation.

The report citing the GAC, notes that the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), US $10.5 million was allegedly injected into tax-deductible community development projects across Liberia between 2011-2014.

"The funds established through the Chevron-Liberia Economic Development Initiative (C-LED) were to deliver 80 projects focused on enterprise development, health and education across 15 counties for social and economic benefits for women, children, and youth.

Despite protocols, Chevron funding did not go through the Ministry of Finance and Development, but instead was handled through NOCAL (which the President's son Robert chaired for at least part of the time), and the President's son's private foundation, the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation."

The SDI concluded: Though President Sirleaf has been outspoken about why the funding went through her son's foundation, Robert Sirleaf served as Chairman of the Board of Directors at NOCAL and presided over lucrative blocks 13 and 14 at the time of the Chevron deal.

And given that Mr. Sirleaf also served as the President's senior advisor despite Article 90 (a) of the constitution, many questioned his role at NOCAL; especially with respect to the Chevron deal.

The report noted that this is not the first-time gross misspending and bribery has clouded Chevron's presence in Liberia.

"Documents released by the GAC in 2010 point to hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes paid to the legislators and their staff. Despite repeated documentation of back-door dealings in the oil and gas sector, Chevron was welcomed into Liberia with open arms.

The Production Sharing Contract (PSC) between the Liberian government and Chevron granted 70% interest and ownership to Chevron for the right to drill, granted tax exemptions to Chevron and reduced government equity and royalties to 5 and 10% respectively despite the 5% royalty fee and 30% yearly income tax required.

The SDI says its report is based on audit documents obtained from the GAC which sheds light on what these missteps have cost in terms of community development, and specifically on the types of projects that the general public missed out on because of misspending by NOCAL and the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation.

Upon GAC's request for an audit of C-LED funds, the SDI reports that NOCAL provided the commission with a list of 79 projects covering several counties.

'Factually Incorrect', Says Sirleaf

But in a scathing response when contacted by FrontPageAfrica at the weekend via email, Mr. Sirleaf accused the SDI of basing its findings on a fabricated GAC audit in a bid to smear his reputation.

Mr. Sirleaf wrote:

Dear Mr. Editor,

SDI has published an accusation that Robert Sirleaf and the RASF Foundation (the "Foundation") has received and mishandled corporate social responsibility funds provided by Chevron. The story is baseless, groundless, absent of facts, outright lies, fabricated, with libelous doctored documents.

The Foundation wants to state unequivocally that this report is factually incorrect, deceptive with imbedded grossly misrepresented facts: It is a clear fabrication.

Neither I nor any of RASF's staff were ever contacted by TIMBY or SDI; either requesting comment, confirmation or a response. TIMBY has never to our knowledge visited any of our projects or requested information to such.

The altered/FAKE documents are rife with inconsistencies and bad mathematics.

RASF expect and demand that SDI immediately remove the article of its web page, replacing it with a formal public apology and admitting their improper characterization of the facts.

The audits documents "obtained" and published by SDI are simply a fabrication.

At worse, a very poor "cut and paste" job, using NOCAL letterhead, referencing a GAC reports which simply does not exit.

There are clear inconsistencies and errors in the SDI documents demonstrating their fabricated nature.

NOCAL CSR division does NOT have their own letterhead

NOCAL CSR cannot response to a GAC audit request relating to Chevron's CSR program because Chevron's CSR was managed only by Chevron, as prescribed by the PSC

Only the head of NOCAL may respond of a GAC audit request, not their CSR personnel

To our knowledge, the GAC does not have pictures nor use or used ones of football teams in its audits or documents

The original, authentic, General Auditing Commission (GAC): GAC 2009 - 2011 NOCAL audit report nor its 2011 - 2015 NOCAL audit made any at all mention of NOCAL, Chevron, Robert Sirleaf, nor the Foundation or any mention of Chevron or NOCAL with respect to the required Chevron social responsibility program or the Chevron social and welfare expenditures referred to below

Chevron for entry into Liberia paid $10MM as a "signature" bonus to the Government of Liberia and $700,000 per year for 5 years to be dedicated to the Corporate Social Responsibility; and solely to manage by Chevron.

Each of these payment obligations was clearly documented in the relevant contracts. Chevron PSC: Per section 29.3 Contractor was to make $150,000 per year during exploration for social and welfare expenditures. Payments were by agreement to go to NOCAL and the University of Liberia bank accounts with verification of account ownership.

In the 2010 PSC addendum added when Chevron became a party to the PSC: "Chevron agrees to invest in Chevron denominated corporate social responsibility programs $700,000 per year" for so long as any of the Chevron PSCs remained in effect for a maximum of five years.

Chevrons' $700,000 per year for 5 years CSR funding not US$10.5M, to the best of the Foundation knowledge was managed and controlled by Chevron to undertake projects that Chevron determined to be beneficial to the country and the facts of those projects can easily be obtained from Chevron.

The Foundation was not a party to and had no connection with the administration and utilization of funds associated with either of the two Chevron social responsibility and welfare projects.

This is the same US$10.5M (signature fee was only of $10mm) that the House of Representatives of the Government of Liberia has conducted several investigations, hearings, 7 audits (5 local and 3 international) into and time with the same result - that neither NOCAL, Robert Sirleaf, nor the Foundation had any responsibility for the day-to-day management and implementation of projects related to the funds.

The President of Liberia never interjected, commented publicly, privately, interpolated or had any influence on how/where Chevron should administer its self-directed CSR funding.

In Summary

At no time did the Foundation or Robert A. Sirleaf receive any funds/monies directly from Chevron for the purpose of undertaking any social development projects in Liberia.

At no time did the Foundation or Robert A. Sirleaf request any funds from Chevron to implement social development projects in Liberia.

Neither Robert A. Sirleaf, nor RASF was aware of the Chevron C-LED project before now nor had any connection with the administration and utilization of funds associated with the C-LED Project.

Contrary to the fabrication projected by the SDI report these projects, the Foundation contributions to projects were self-funded by the foundation through international grants, thru local NGO's and are properly documented.

On the fabricated purported "NOCAL letterhead" of NOCAL's Corporate Social Responsibility Division (CSR); the RASF projected are discussed:

The captions have been simply copied from the Foundation's own public documents, which further supports the notion that the SDI documents are crude fabrication.

Of the 80 plus projects implemented by the Foundation, 52 during that period were implemented in partnership with local NGO institutions and the remaining projects were implemented by the Foundation.

As for the three projects allegedly visited by SDI: Youth Community Center in Logan Town, the Chevron Central Park in Via Town, and the low-income housing units in Buchanan: RASF did not participate administratively, nor involved with ANY of those projects at ANY level.

The TIMBY reporters did not make any request nor contact any personnel of the Foundation to request visitation any transparent projects.

All are welcome to visit any of very successful projects, a few: The Blue Field in PHP Community, the New Kru Town pitch, West Point markets & pitch, the Executive Car Wash on Old Road, the women's market in Chicken Soup Factory, Clara Town sports pitch, hair braiding women center and motorcycle repair shop both on Lynch Street. We invite all to speak to those in the community and document their feedback. All are welcome.

The Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation gives the SDI a limited short window to provide a retraction, removal of the story on its web pate and issue a formal apology to this malicious, fabricated report.

We are confident, and expect that NOCAL and the GAC will issue public statements to the altering of their documents.

As we pursue an aggressive legal path, with a high confidence of success; the burden of proof remains on TIMBY, SDI, and its sponsors.

Any legal financial settlement obtained by Robert Sirleaf or the Foundation will be directed to a substantial community project of TIMBY or SDI choice with them responsible for the implementation and management of such project.

Contacted at the weekend, Mr. James Otto, Manager of the SDI failed to address NOCAL and Mr. Sirleaf's allegations that the documents were fabricated but said in a statement that 'appropriate authorities should check the records" and that "it is not its job to make the case - that is judicial and rests upon the state to act in accordance with the kind of information that we provide."

Cited Report 'Not Ours', GAC Says

Said Mr. James: "The records and facts should be checked by the appropriate agencies and further probed by the government. NOCAL has merely said they have no authority over how CSR is spent, not that they didn't receive money. These are not essential to the facts raised in the report.

Did NOCAL receive monies, in part or whole, whether or not they had the authority to determine how such monies would be used?

The material facts of the report as presented in the report are unchanged until further and official investigation.

That Chevron's monies were diverted to bodies outside of the GoL is documented. NOCAL and the RSF should begin a process of addressing the facts raised in the report.

A senior official at the General Auditing Commission, speaking to FrontPageAfrica Sunday expressed surprise at the revelations contained in the SDI report.

"It is not in our audit report. I really don't know where they got it from. They're talking about 2016 and all that. It is not in our report. I don't know where they got it from."

The official did however confirm that the actual report is expected to be released over the next few days.

"Either this week or next week, we will release that report," said the official, speaking strictly on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to speak publicly on the SDI report controversy.

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