Friday, 6 May 2011

Cold Water Saga

 Did Lawmakers Request US$118,400 From NACOL?
M. Welemongai Ciapha, II (077119511)

A detailed audit conducted on the financial records of the National Oil Company of Liberia by former GAC Boss John S. Morlu, II, has established that claims by Chairman of the Board of Directors that he paid in excess of US$118, 400  as inducement to Lawmakers is of no iota of legal truth.

“The payment of the purported lobbying fees to the Legislature is unlawful, and contravenes Section 12.50(1) of the Penal Law of Liberia which states “a person has committed bribery, a second degree felony, if he knowingly offers, gives or agrees to give to another or solicit, accepts or agrees to accept from another, a thing of value as consideration for the recipient’s official action as a public servant. The recipient’s violation of a known duty as a public servant.” The report stated.

Essentially, the audit discovered that the minutes of the NOCAL’s Board of Directors indicated that the Board was also concerned that payment of such amounts to the lawmakers to influence the passage of the petroleum contracts of Broadway PLC and Oranto Petroleum was irregular, a form of bribery under the laws of Liberia.

In response to the audit findings, NACOL’s Board of Directors declared:”After consultation with the authorities, we gave in to their demands reluctantly. The first amount of  US$ 50,000.00 was approved by the Board. A scrutiny of the minutes will reveal that we did not have fund at the time but the Board authorized management to borrow the amount from the LPRC. A second payment was made to the Legislators without the approval of the Board. I was informed by Dr. Kromah, NOCAL’s President, that the situation demanded that this amount be paid right away.”

The report further states: “By his admission, he is saying that he and the Board Members were aware of the disbursement of the borrowed US$50,000.00 from LPRC to a Member of the National Legislature and the Chief Clerk of the House of Representative. Montserrado County District#1 Representative received US$40,000.00 as authenticated by the receipt issued by her and Chief Clerk James Kaba received US$1,500.00 as also authenticated by a receipt issued by him.”

Morlu noted that the failure of  the Board’s Chairman, Urey to provide the names of the lawmakers or any evidence of the balance of US$76, 900 allegedly paid to members of the House of Representatives as ‘cold water’ demonstrated irregular transaction.

“This clearly showed that the bribery was authorized by the Board’s approval to borrow US$50,000.00 from LPRC. The number of authorizations the Board provided was not material and is not the issue. Instead the action of the Board to authorize the first payment
was irregular and a breach of the Penal law of Liberia, setting the basis for the President/CEO to exploit the opportunity,” the audit report added.

The former A.G.,  in his detailed analysis of the financial book of NACOL described  the management’s position on the matter as follows:”the management, in flagrant disregard of the laws of Liberia, responded, Although management recognizes that this is a common practice.”

The audit discovered a receipt of US$ 40, 000 from Representative Alomiza Ennos Barr, while the late Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives, Atty. James Kaba grabbed US$1,500.

Said the AG: “I recommend that the US$118,400.00 purportedly paid as lobbying fees be refunded to NOCAL’s coffers by Madam Alomiza Ennos Barr, Member of the House of Representative, James Kaba, Chief Clerk of the House of Representative, and Dr. Fodee Kromah, President of NOCAL.
Except for a payment received and signed for by Madam Barr in the tune of US$40,000.00 and another payment signed for by Chief Clerk Kaba in the tune of US$1,500.00, there was no evidence of receipt by the National Legislature of US$76,900.00.”

Continued the report: “On the basis of the information and clarification provided by Chairman Urey, I recommended that Dr. Kromah refund the amount and that the Minister of Justice employs the necessary legal means to remedy the fraud and the contravention of Liberian laws.” the report recommended.

The audit report  Additionally recommended that the petroleum contracts of Broadway PLC and Oranto Petroleum Ltd.,  ratified by the Legislature and signed by the President of the Republic of Liberia should be immediately nullified, because the process was compromised by bribery and influence peddling, thereby denying assurance that the contracts were ratified for the benefit of the Liberian people.

Dissecting the records, it was observed that  a number of irregularities were also noted with the operations of NOCAL’s board, with the purchase of a twin-cabin pick-up valued at US$34,500 for the board’s chairman Urey by the board.

The report  clarified that it is the prerogative of the President of Liberia to decide who the responsibility of that office should be delegated to. Similarly,  the audit stated, letters from the President of Liberia not on official Ministry of State Letter head does not fall within NOCAL’s purview. Therefore, the report said, the Ministry of State should be contacted to provide explanation on why letters written to board members were not on official letter head.” The report emphasized.