The eminent economic and financial analyst and writer, Harry A. Greaves in his weekly Daily Observer column last week, produced an alarming revelation. Quoting “reliable sources”, Mr. Greaves, who is also a certified public accountant (CPA), told our readers that in March this year (2015), the
National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) had in its bank accounts a staggering US$80 million. But by the end of June 2015 – three months later – that money had been spent, leaving a paltry balance of US$500,000.
The first question to ask is, is this true? Did NOCAL truly have in its bank accounts US$80 million? Who are Mr. Greaves’ “reliable sources”, and are they correct in their revelation?
It is widely speculated – indeed most people believe – that though he resigned as chair in 2013, Robert Sirleaf still calls the shots at NOCAL. How does the President, his mother, allow that to happen? Is it true what many are saying – that she is incapable of standing up to her “most beloved son”, so that he always has his way and gets anything he wants? Then the President herself is responsible for the malpractices at NOCAL. No wonder she announced last week that she takes “full responsibility” for what happened there.
If now, Greaves “reliable sources “are correct, then what happened to the US$80 million so quickly? Was some of it squandered on the “retirement packages” that some of the NOCAL staff and board members are said to have received?
How on earth is it possible for such a stupendous amount of money to be so recklessly mishandled? Did those responsible forget that Liberia is a country where the vast majority of its people live in abject poverty?
Did they forget that by the President’s own admission, the educational system is “in a mess”? That our health care delivery system, too, is terribly inadequate, and that is why nearly 5, 000 of our people, mostly the poor and destitute, perished from Ebola?
Do the people who spent that money know what even one fourth of that amount, US$20million, could have done for Education and health in our country?
With this kind of financial recklessness, even thievery, with what conscience do our leaders stand before the donors in Europe, America, Asia and Africa and plead for aid? We know of nowhere in the developed world that its officials would spend their taxpayers money in such a reckless and thievish manner. Even if the US$80 million allegation were untrue, what about the US$31 million that Clemenceau Urey left in the NOCAL accounts when President Sirleaf removed him as NOCAL Chair in February 2012? That is when she appointed her son Robert to that position.
On Robert Sirleaf’s watch NOCAL was able to spend US$ 31 million in only the 18 months of his tenure! Doing what?
We support Harry Greaves 100% in his call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to commission immediately an audit of NOCAL. Given the magnitude of this crisis, only an independent international auditing firm such as Price Water House or Coopers and Lybrand can do justice to the auditing of NOCAL.
Indeed, the government’s own auditing firm, the General Auditing Commission (GAC) would be very reluctant even afraid to touch NOCAL.
Why? This newspaper has in its possession a letter written by NOCAL Board Chairman Robert Sirleaf dated October 4, 2012, to Mr. Robert Kilby, Auditor General at the time. In his letter, Mr. Sirleaf told Mr. Kilby, “… the Board of Directors respectfully requests, on behalf of NOCAL, a temporary break in the audit process while we re-examine our internal control systems and attempt to ensure that the process is done correctly, efficiently and in a manner that will maximize the benefit of conducting an audit. Our Audit Committee stands ready to work alongside your designated focal person
in order to reschedule the commencement of the audit.
“I wish to thank you for your kind consideration of this request.”
Does the GAC, even under a new management, have the temerity to touch NOCAL with an Audit? In any case, with such an intimidating letter on its file, what kind of audit will the GAC have the courage to undertake?
In keeping with her own pledge proclaimed in her Inaugural Address on January 16, 2006, to make the fight against corruption “Priority No. 1,” we call on the President to face the tainted bull head-on by credibly auditing NOCAL.
This is a matter of character and resolve.