The Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), T. Nelson Williams II, has categorically denied rumors that his corporation was contemplating dismissing several employees, among them those who were sent home as non-essential staff in wake of the Ebola epidemic.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Mineral Resources and Environment yesterday, Mr. Williams disclosed that on the contrary, the employees were sent home as a means of helping to decongest and ensure the health, safety and clean environment of the LPRC facilities during the Ebola epidemic.
He described the layoff reports as rumors, saying there is no intention of senior management or the Board of Trustees of the LPRC to down-size.
Said Mr. Williams, “Our employees are at home resting because we decided to decongest the Terminal because of the Ebola epidemic. At no time did we insinuate or disseminate information that we were terminating or down-sizing people at the LPRC.”
He further informed the Committee chaired by Grand Kru County Senior Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson, that with Ebola retreating from the country, leading to Liberia being declared Ebola-free sometime soon, the Corporation is looking forward to having its employees return, post-Ebola.
He said management was in constant communication with those on leave, making sure that they are well and that they continue to adhere to the preventive measures and respond to awareness in their communities.
“We are hoping that they will be returning not later than January. Meanwhile, they are still taking pay. The only people that will be leaving permanently in January are six of our employees who will be honorably retired after 25 years of service and having reached the age of 65 years. The additional 175 employees will be returning; there will be no mass dismissal at LPRC,” MD Williams declared.
The LPRC boss informed the Committee that his corporation has a total workforce of 283 employees, and a contract staff of 200. He explained that most of the people currently at home are contract staff.
Responding to questions on the national fuel security and progress on the expansion work at the LPRC, Mr. Williams said that at this point, the facilities of LPRC are 100 percent full and that there are also vessels enroute. He emphasized that there have been no gaps in supply of petroleum products into the country.
“In our plan B, we have contacts with Offshore Lome, just in case there is an issue in Ivory Coast. By this arrangement, we will continue to receive supplies from other parts of the world. I think we are fine for this year; and going into 2015, we do have fuel security.”
On the expansion work at the LPRC, Mr. Williams said the expansion project for the Kru Storage Terminal, which is located at the Freeport of Monrovia, is about 85 percent completed, and will be finished by the end of December. He said the facility will be used to import heavy fuel oil (HFO), and that by the first quarter of 2015 the new facility will allow those in the business of using heavy fuel oil for their operations to import.
The major clients for the usage of that oil is the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC). This oil is about 50 percent the cost in diesel fuel, and will also cut the cost of tariff for customers that use LEC and will bring relief for the end users of LEC current.
Mr. Williams further indicated that the number of Liberian importers of petroleum products into the country will reach 73 percent by 2016 from the current 58, recalling that when he took over at LPRC, Liberian importers accounted for only 30 percent.
The only reason why the LPRC has not increased the number of Liberian importers is because the corporation does not have the capacity.
Also appearing yesterday was the Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Patrick Sendolo who briefed the committee on the impact of the Ebola epidemic on the Hydro Project, and the electricity distribution and situation report on the southeast.