The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sternly refuted and rubbished reports linking the Executive Director, Nathaniel T. Blama to financial and administrative malpractices as circulated in the realm of the media.
“These are clear indications of unprofessional and unethical journalism where biased ulterior motives, lies and fallacies, and personal self-intent overrule the proper balance of facts. At the EPA, we deem this as being counterproductive to the critical work that the Government of Liberia through its agencies is doing for the forward match and development of Liberia,” said Randall M. Dobayou, Deputy Executive Director of EPA.
The report that has circulated in mainstream and social media, aligns the EPA Executive Director with “Chopping Spree,” a phrase indicating that Executive Director Blama was allegedly engaged in acts beneficial to him to the detriment of the institution and the Liberian Government at large.
A portion of the report noted in an unconfirmed tone, “First, he is said to have increased renewal and permit fees without the knowledge of the board; he still manages an environmental company as well as a signatory to an extra bank account.”
In a very firm response at a press conference on March 10, 2020, Deputy Executive Director Dobayou asserted that the current fees regime is a mandate of the law and was established by the Agency prior to the appointment of the current team led by Mr. Blama and him (Dobayou).
“For further evidence on fees payment, the EPA invites the public to countercheck with the Agency’s ESIA Unit and Finance Department which would reveal that the fees for agricultural projects communicated under the previous EPA administration remain unchanged, meaning there has been no arbitrary increase in fees levied for the acquisition of Environmental Assessment permits or licenses since the Executive Director’s appointment,” Dobayou said.
The report alleges that renewal and permit fee “that was in the tone of US$5,000 was being increased without the consent of the EPA Board to US$11,000,” but the EPA Deputy Executive Director pointed out that sections 29 and 45 of the Act establishing the EPA together with the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia mandates the EPA to charge fees on permits for the approval of environmental licenses and other regulatory requirements which enable the EPA to review the compliance of environmental projects with the standards of sustainable management of the environment.
By that, he said there has not been an increase in the fee of permit.
The report further links Executive Director Blama to collecting fees in the name of the EPA and diverting to his personal accounts; which Dobayou described as “Another piece of gross misinformation.”
According to him, the General Auditing Commission (GAC) with other international accounting firms is in the process of conducting an audit of the agency, noting further that international institutions are entrusting the EPA with huge sums of money to manage environmental programs and therefore it is a naïve statement to report an unsubstantiated issue without any piece of evidence.
Mr. Blama is also reported to have been connected to an environmental consulting firm — Planet Resource Management, which accordingly would create a conflict of interest in whom to award contracts to as the EPA has the right to hire a third-party firm for environmental projects that the EPA might not be able to carry out.
Though confirmed that the EPA Executive Director was with the Planet Resource management prior to his ascension as Executive Director of a public agency, it is established that he resigned after he was appointed by the President to head the EPA. However, skepticism raised in the report is that Mayango Borzie, Sr., the one heading the consultancy company is a relative of Blama which suggests that his interest lies with this company.
The report, on the other hand, did not establish the relation between the two men, and Dobayou said the EPA boss did the right thing under the law to resign from the private consultancy group to take the job at the EPA.
Dobayou noted with emphasis that the EPA is opened to the public and is taking no side in any environmental issue, but going ahead in line with its mandate to levy fines even on companies that violate the environment laws of Liberia.
“Many people will use the media to malign others because they want to take their positions, and in that case, they use the media to accomplish their goals. We want to say that what is being reported is nothing but falsehoods, and if anyone wishes to get information about how the EPA operates, we are opened to the public. Our Executive Director Nathaniel Blama has done nothing as reported, and let not journalists give themselves to burying the truth to dwell on falsehood,” Dobayou concluded.