Ellen Takes Blame for NOCAL Woes

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has taken the blame for the current managerial and financial difficulties that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) is enduring. She said she takes the blame for such an embarrassing situation because she is the head of the government, though she never thought that things could have turned out this way because she had believed she had an able Director and Senior management at the entity.
“As the head of the country you have to take responsibility even though you have a very able Director and a very able senior management I entrusted to make the decision on behalf of the company. As the head of the country anything that does not work the way we want I ultimately will be responsible,” the President told reporters yesterday upon her return from Japan, where she had gone to deliver the keynote address at the opening of the 2nd World Assembly for Women (WAW 2015).
NOCAL, it has been reported, is at the verge of bankruptcy and collapse, lacking leadership.
The entire situation began in the fourth quarter of 2013, when NOCAL’s revenue for seismic data sale began a precipitous decline, during which total seismic revenue fell by 29 percent from the prior fiscal year and was compounded by the Ebola virus outbreak. This, according to reports, led to a reduction in investor interest across all economic sectors for the impacted West African region.
President Sirleaf’s decision to publicly and personally take responsibility for the NOCAL debacle was contained in a response to a call by former Public Works Ministry, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods that the government should take responsibility for the problem at the entity.
Atty. Woods, at a program for women last week, called on the government to take full responsibility for the financial impropriety at the entity by suspending the payment of severance and other benefits to those retired and or dismissed until a full investigation is conducted.
The investigation, he said, should be void of members of the Board as announced by President Sirleaf, contending that “the NOCAL mess was created by the very board members.”
When quizzed about this, President Sirleaf said, “I take the blame because I’m the head of the government. The head person takes responsibility even though he/she might not have been directly involved or directly responsible,” she said.
President Sirleaf further indicated that the NOCAL situation has now led her to be very critical of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and Public Corporations. “That’s the reason why I now have all information on the SOEs, especially as it relates to salaries and benefits,” she said.
“We are looking at them now to make sure their boards are functioning and to make sure that there are reductions in costs so they don’t face any company closing anymore. Now I’m going to pay much more attention to what’s happening to Public Corporations and the SOEs,” she said.
As the President takes the blame, she also hoped that former Minister Woods will also take blame for some of the problems that came out under his watch at Public Works.
“I suspect that former minister Woods will be equally responsible for things that happened under his watch when it comes to the problems we had at the Ministry of Public Works,” she said.
President Sirleaf reiterated that NOCAL is currently undergoing reform, though this reform is as a result of internal agreement, the President indicated that the hierarchy of the entity was pushed by the Executive Mansion to take on the exercise.
“The reform program was formulated by them, although we pushed them to do it when we saw that the situation has changed globally; oil prices are down,” she admitted.
She indicated that the situation went to the extreme because NOCAL was too late in taking on the reform exercise, but it has to be done.
“They’re doing what needs to be done and after that they will straiten themselves up. These things are cyclical, today oil prices are down tomorrow it will be up and we don’t know [if] they may become as strong as they were. We all look forward to that.”

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