NOCAL Audit, Not Severance Benefits

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Following President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s endorsement of the recommendation of the Board of National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to pay severance benefits to the entity’s president and chief executive officer (CEO), Dr. Randolph McClain and other officials, an anti-corruption group has described the president’s action as “unfortunate and supportive of corrupt practices in the public sector.
Central for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) last Friday during a press conference alleged that it was Dr. McClain’s “poor judgment” which had plunged the oil company into a serious financial crisis and as such, he and his colleagues do not deserve any lucrative benefits from NOCAL.
Recently, President Sirleaf, addressing a press conference at her Ministry of Foreign Affairs office called for the immediate retirement of Dr. McClain and several others with severance pay to be approved by the Board of NOCAL.
She did not mention how much money NOCAL’s board has allotted for McClain and his deputies as severance benefits neither did she say where the money would come from, with NOCAL teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Mr. Anderson Miaman, acting executive director of CENTAL, said it is surprising that the president whose government has been stigmatized with corruption could endorse NOCAL board’s recommendation.
Miaman suggested that the best thing President Sirleaf could have done was to order an immediate independent audit and an investigation to understand how millions of United States Dollars disappeared over the years from NOCAL.
But, he said, he believes that the president was only interested in using taxpayers’ money to pay huge severance benefits to Dr. McClain and his collaborators.
“What is even more baffling is the president’s decision to endorse NOCAL board’s recommendation to pay huge severance benefits to these very individuals whose poor judgment led to bankrupting the entity,” adding, “we take serious exception to her action and urge the president to rethink her decision.”
Mr. Miaman said the most logical action would have been dismissals and the referral of McClain and his deputies to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
“We cannot continue to encourage misuse of the country’s resources by paying bonuses and benefits to individuals whose poor judgments lead to misuse of meager public resources on activities with no tangible benefits and impact on the lives of the people,” he stated.
“We anticipated that the president would have forwarded senior officials and board members of the entity to the LACC to verify their assets and determine whether or not they illegally acquired wealth while serving in their respective positions,” Mr. Miaman complained.
“That course of action is necessary to support efforts to fight corruption and ensure that public resources are judiciously expended and properly accounted for no matter who are involved.”
NOCAL, he alleged paying fabulous benefits and travel allowances to a handful of Legislators and senior executives of the company in the name of compensations for countywide, local and international consultations on the Draft Petroleum Law of Liberia.
“We are faced with the harsh reality of the institution’s bankruptcy and its inability to maintain its current workforce. If all the signs and recommendations coming from different circles of the public had been heeded, this embarrassing situation would have been averted,” Miaman stated.
CENTAL is part of a consortium of civil society organizations committed to ensuring transparency and accountability in Liberia’ oil sector which recommended to the government that it should investigate spending by NOCAL during the consultation on the draft petroleum law.

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