NOCAL’s Corruption Resurfaces
-At Senate Confirmation Senate
During the confirmation Hearing of the newly appointed Director General of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Authority (LPRA), Mr. Edward R. A. Smith at the Senate Committee Room of the National Legislature last Wednesday, the issue of corruption and the bankruptcy of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) became a major focus of discussion among the senators.Sen. Dalles Gueh of Nimba County wondered why is it that a US$500,000 amount allegedly donated by NOCAL to the Ministry of Education for scholarship purposes is yet to be received by that ministry as the money is still in transit, and yet government has created a new Petroleum Refinery Regulation Authority to be headed by the Director General designate.
Introducing himself to the Hearing Committee earlier, Mr. Smith noted that his experience includes working at the LEITI, a tract record in the Liberian petroleum sector serving at NOCAL for 5 years, and serving as treasurer with the ECOBANK, and chief of staff in the office of the Finance minister after completing his undergraduate studies at the AMEU and a Masters degree in the UK, he believes he is competent for the job.
According to Mr. Smith, if confirmed his first task will be to take the documents of the authority to the Public Procurement and Concesions Commission (PPCC) and then to the National Legislature for legislative enactment.
Mr. Smith told the senators that if confirmed, his functions will including regulating the oil industry and issuing licenses to petroleum purchasing companies, adding that he will also play a key role in oil blocs negotiations.
Sen. Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County in his contribution told the nominee that they are wondering over where they can find the money to fund the operations of the newly created entity as NOCAL is broke and even the major oil drilling companies such as Chevron Exxon, Mobil have pulled out of although some of them signed contracts of up to 25 to 30 years with the government.
Sen. Sherman also told Mr. Smith that the country needs someone with vast experience in the oil sector who is also familiar with recent developments in other international oil producing countries such as Iran and Texas in the USA, adding that people that he will be interacting with in the oil industry of other countries are among the best and smartest.
Sen. Sherman then asked for the staff and operational structure and when presented, Mr. Smith was told to present a budget for 3 years and a skeleton staff in view of financial constraints in the country at the moment. Sen. Morris Saytuma said a regulator cannot at the same time be a negotiator, adding that there are two categories of oil, the on-shore and the off-shore and that the oil in Liberia is the off-shore category and that seismic data is sold by the TDS.
All the senate committee on Lands, Mines and Energy and Natural Resources members present including Se. Edward Dagosseh and Sen. Conmany Wesseh then proposed to the nominees that because of some challenges observed the confirmation will be delayed as they have to deliberate on it in a committee room.
The senators expressed pessimism over the sources of funding to run the LPRA.