Ellen to Retire NOCAL CEO, Several Others

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called for the immediate retirement of the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Dr. Randolph McClain, with severance pay as approved by the Board.
President Sirleaf who for several months dilly dallied as NOCAL, battered by accusations of corruption, overspending and misappropriation, floundered on the brink of bankruptcy, made the pronouncement yesterday during a press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
CEO McClain’s retirement and the termination of several of his lieutenants and most of his staff come amid reports that many global oil companies are slashing staff by half as the industry struggles.
The terminations also come amid a strong push by the financially-strapped oil company, for the conclusion of production sharing contract arrangements related to the 2014 Liberia Basin Bid Round For Oil Blocks 6,7 and 17 as well as looming bankruptcy of the struggling NOCAL in order to save it from collapse.
It may be recalled that NOCAL’s financial crisis erupted not long after Robert Sirleaf, the President Sirleaf’s son, stepped down as chairman of its board of directors. His appointment by President Sirleaf was widely criticized locally and internationally as a classic example of nepotism.
It sparked a rift between the President and her fellow Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, who was among the critics of that appointment.
It may be recalled that when Mr. Clemenceau Urey was summarily removed as chairman of the board only to be replaced by the President’s son, Robert, NOCAL was in a strong financial position with at least US$31 million in its bank accounts. But shortly after Robert Sirleaf retired as chairman it became clear that NOCAL was in deep financial trouble.
What happened to that healthy bank balance remains a mystery and many wonder whether some of it may have gone to Robert Sirleaf’s disastrous senatorial bid against football legend George Weah. Weah beat candidate Sirleaf by a landslide and is now the elected senator for Montserrado County.
There is widespread speculation that despite his retirement as chairman of the board, Robert Sirleaf still called the shots at NOCAL, while many of the people that he chose still remained in top positions in the company.
Dr. McClain, a chemical engineer who for over 30 years worked for American chemical giant, DuPont, may have himself to blame for what has now happened to him because he may have felt incapacitated to say no and resign.
It may be recalled that on June 23, President Sirleaf called on the Board of NOCAL “to nullify all resolutions passed approving excessive benefits for departing senior managers and Board members,” targeting specifically a November 2011 resolution that allowed management to benefit from a no ceiling parting gifts policy.
The President’s move followed a leaked memo from NOCAL Board members on June 9, which stated that Liberia had “lost potentially much needed money in signature bonuses” from the slow pace to close the bid round while giant American oil companies Anadarko and Chevron either walked away or held fire on investments in Liberia in a “stunning, unfortunate and embarrassing reversal of fortune” for the country.
The President has meanwhile assured that a few members of the Board will continue as an Interim Board until reconstituted. She promised that appropriate severance pay will be made to those that will be leaving the company.
The Board, the President said, will require the immediate resignation or dismissal of the vice president for administration, the vice president for public affairs and the acting vice president for Corporate Social Relations (CSR), who will receive severance pay as approved.
Contrary to practice, she directed that severance to senior management be reduced by 50% and further subjected to tax deductions.
President Sirleaf also disclosed that an Interim Transition Team (ITT) composed of the current Chief Operating Officer, the Vice President for Finance and the Vice President for Technical Services will hold over in the transition period, with severance pay delayed until the period is over.
The ITT, she said, under the guidance of the Board, will take on the immediate task of implementing the SAP (Sustainability Action Plan), including payment of severance to employees at all levels of the organization and reducing staff to not more than 50 employees.
Madam Sirleaf said the Interim Board and Interim Management Team will assume responsibility to implement the Media Intervention Framework and the Security Plan to protect physical assets and documentation. It will give support to the Internal Audit Agency which has been authorized to audit and undertake an inventory of all physical assets. Observers wonder why the President did not authorize the appointment of an external auditor, especially one with a strong international reputation, to audit NOCAL.

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