Government Must Act to End the Gasoline Ponzi Scheme Now!

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Why is the price of gasoline still high despite assurances by the LPRC of adequate gas supply is the question which remains unanswered despite reassurances by LPRC that there is no gasoline shortage in town? Well, after some painstaking research conducted by this paper, it is becoming increasingly clear that the roots of the shortage of gasoline now exerting a crippling effect on business and everyday life in general can be traced back to the Ellen Sirleaf Administration.

And the reason why such may just be coming to the attention of the public is because there is virtually no gasoline in the LPRC storage tanks although the records and books of the various importers would readily show that they have healthy balances of petroleum in storage at the LPRC. Far from it, the petroleum is just not available. The situation is made worse by the failure of the National Port Authority(NPA) to dredge the Freeport of Monrovia which would have made it possible for vessels of greater tonnage to berth at the Freeport of Monrovia.

According to sources there have been some ongoing tussle between the APM Terminals and the NPA over the dredging of the port. Sources further say that the APM Terminals under the terms of an Agreement with the NPA should dredge the port and that it (APM Terminals) had already contacted a Ukrainian company to undertake the job. But according to sources, the NPA management, apparently hoping to get some kickbacks, declined to give its go-ahead to the APM Terminals to proceed with the job.

Sources further say that the NPA management sought the services of a Chinese company who promised to get the job done for US$500,000 as opposed to the US$750,000 APM had earmarked to pay the Ukrainian contractors. Eventually, according to sources, the Chinese firm, which according to sources did not have the expertise nor requisite equipment to secure the contract, instead sought to hire the very Ukrainian Company but its overtures to the Ukrainian company did not yield the desired result because the Ukrainians refused the Chinese offer.

Currently the port is unable to accommodate large vessels or vessels with draught exceeding 15 feet because the port is just not deep enough. As a result larger vessels cannot berth at the Port and that includes petroleum tankers which would normally dock at the LPRC jetty and have its cargo unloaded. As a result, LPRC has now come face to face with a dire situation whose roots can be traced to the Ellen Sirleaf administration which had encouraged or authorized the LPRC to provide huge overdrafts to two major importers of Petroleum products in Liberia (names withheld).

According to sources these importers, using the influence and clout of President Sirleaf, were provided huge overdrafts by the LPRC, meaning LPRC, without the expressed authority of importers whose products are stored in the LPRC tanks, provided petroleum (overdrafts) to these importers that were owned by others or which they did not own. These importers have not since paid their debts and the Government of Liberia though the LPRC appears reluctant to bring pressure to bear on these importers (names withheld for now).

So what appears to be happening now is that the Ponzi scheme is being exposed because LPRC is not an importer of petroleum products but rather owns the storage facility and that there is virtually no oil in the storage tanks commensurate to what is being reflected as balances on the books of importers. In short, the grand Ponzi Scheme has come to light and the LPRC finds itself in dire straits. So they keep peddling lies to the public to provide false assurances that everything is well and fine when “Something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark”.

The Phrase “Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark has wide usage in English today. It comes from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet (Act-I, Scene-IV, Lines 87-91) in which Shakespeare portrays Denmark as a place of “human villainy” — a breeding ground of political as well as spiritual corruption. “It can be applicable to any type of corruption happening whether in politics, at home, businesses, or even in love, meaning something wrong going around. It also fits perfectly for a corrupt leader, ruler or political party in a country”.

This phrase is also perfectly applicable to the situation at the LPRC which actually began during the Ellen Sirleaf administration. Now it has come to head and the grand Ponzi scheme has been unveiled. It is now left entirely to this George Weah led government to address the situation.

He and his government are taking the shots and if he means business, now is the time to destroy the scheme by bringing those responsible to book particularly those two individuals to whom huge overdrafts were provided using their political connections.

Those overdrafts have not since been paid and the LPRC management has long been engaged in cover-ups. And this is because they have more likely than not been benefitting from the scheme.

Currently limited supplies of petroleum products are being brought into the country and, according to sources, owners of various petrol stations are, at late hours of the night or early morning hours, surreptitiously selling gasoline products to wayside distributors at prices above USD$5.00 per gallon to desperate consumers who are forced to pay between 1300 and 1,500 LD per gallon of gasoline. At the exchange rate of LD190 to one US dollar, the actual buying price when available stands well above USD$5.00 per gallon.

Against this backdrop, the Government of Liberia as well as the LPRC need to tell the Liberian people the truth except, of course, they have something to hide. In case they do, they should also let the public know in order to end the wild speculations. Now, as to whether the NPA has any role to play in this Ponzi Scheme other than its alleged corrupt involvement in the bid tendering process for dredging the Port remains unclear.

What is clear is the Liberian people are suffering needlessly and the Weah led government must act to bring relief to the people. It must end the Gasoline Ponzi Scheme NOW!

4 COMMENTS

  1. A significant resonating editorial that goes to the heart of the matter. It reminds of a racket with fuel oil in 1987. A year after being kicked out of NSA, the government asked me to Co-Chair a Committee headed by Minister of State Dr Peter Naigow to investigate continual electricity blackouts in Rural Liberia some suspected could’ve been the work of anti-government saboteurs. The situation was notorious especially in Cape Mount, Bong, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Nimba County, and Maryland Counties

    The probe started from LEC’s Generation Division and LPRC in Monrovia and reached the affected counties. Our investigative team discovered that owners of tankers transporting fuel oil, drivers, LEC managers in the countries, and LPRC officials were in a racket of withholding fuel oil bought by government for generators in the counties, hence depriving residents of electricity Anyway, LEC boss Sam Burnet got replaced by his deputy Chris Neyor, yet nobody was charged with a crime. Incredibly, not because the government covered up to shield anyone, but couldn’t disgrace highly-regarded citizens: How nice of Sweet Liberia.

    Frankly speaking, the promoter of corruption and other ills in our country has been impunity. When lawbreakers know they won’t be caught or held responsible, nothing will change – for bad behaviors are better deterred by sending strong messages. For example, Bernie Madoff, a former Chairmen of NASDAQ through a Ponzi scheme defrauded clients of US$ 64.8 billion. However, despite his gargantuan connections and immense personal wealth, on June 29, 2009 he was sentenced to 150 years and properties from the ill-gotten gains auctioned off.

    Thanks, Mr. John HT Stewart for great investigative journalism some of us know you are a maestro of when you aren’t (for partisan purposes) hiding behind journalistic freedoms to ignore journalistic standards. We aren’t asking for apologists of government; after all, a responsible media space helps our democracy. But trust me, friend or no friend; name-calling or no-calling; many of us will continue to check on the checkers or watchdogs of society; especially so, the best and smartest culprit of all: You!

  2. The best and smartest culprit of all: you!. Did you really mean that, Sir, or are you writing in Jest? Did you intend to hit below the belt?

    Peace

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