-New Leadership Assures Liberians, Open To Audit

The President/Chief Executive Officer-designate of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Saifuah Mai- Gray has told the Liberian Senate that the entity is open to audit.

Madam Gray further told members of that august body that such audit will depend on facts and circumstances, and the availability of finances, saying she wouldn’t hesitate to order a fresh audit of the nation’s only oil and gas industry, in order to determine the institution’s viability.

“I might call for a fresh audit but; that will be determined by whether we have finance to call in fresh international audit team to do an audit of the company. I am not going to sit here and tell you anything fix. I will have to go in there to know what’s there and then, from there; we will determine whether or not to conduct an audit of NOCAL. But, I cannot rule out an audit. I may or may not order another, but we have to wait and see what’s in there first,” Madam Gray told Senate standing committee on Lands, Mines, Energy and Natural resources.

“I have heard that NOCAL has money, and that a lot of things went on within the entity but, we cannot speak to those allegations because I do not have the facts,” she asserted. She also acknowledged that when confirmed by the Liberian Senate to the post, she noted, “My greatest challenge will be to build the lost trust and confidence between the Liberian Government and public over the management of the National Oil Company of Liberia.”

“One of the greatest mistakes that our predecessors made, with all due regards, is their failure to manage the people’s expectation. I think Liberian public needed to be sufficiently informed on the status of the oil and gas sector that we were never at the stage of producing oil. We are still in the state of exploration as well as determining whether or not we have oil in the first place, and second, to determine whether or not it is commercial value, if indeed it is confirmed that we have oil. So, those are areas I think the past NOCAL administration should have really focused and do enough publicity.

“It’s a big challenge trying to restore the lost confidence between NOCAL and the Liberian public, but we are going to do our best to settle the dust.

The NOCAL CEO-designate said upon assuming office, she will heavily focus her attention on vibrant information dissemination to the public relative to restoration of public trust and erasing public perception and negativities about the entity.

“We are here for a rebranding of NOCAL,” Madam Gray told the Senate committee on Lands, Mines and Energy. Adding: “We have to ensure that we restore the public’s trust and confidence because there’s huge mistrust within the general Liberian public regarding the general picture of NOCAL. We need to change this negative perception and bring our people to the reality.”

Madam Gray also explained to the Liberian Senate how she intendeds to turn that wheel of transformation from negativity to positivity, noting that: “The way to do this is to lead by example. As head of that institution, I need to ensure, first and foremost, that whatever I do there be in the interest of the Liberian people because, at the end of the day, it is the Liberian people’s resources that we are going to manage at NOCAL. We’ll take the right steps at the right time. We’ll institute the right policies where necessary. We’ll also make the right interventions that will positively impact the Liberian people. This is how we intend to go about doing it.”

President George Weah recently appointed Saifuah Gray as the new President/CEO of the National Oil Company of Liberia pending Senate’s confirmation. She replaces Dr. Randolph McClain, who inherited virtually broken oil sector a few years back, after former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the collapse of the country’s only Oil and Gas industry. It is estimated that over US$80million was allegedly mismanaged at the entity in which the erstwhile President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s son, Robert Sirleaf, was heavily linked to its break down.

There have been repeated calls for the prosecution of Mr. Sirleaf and others who presided over the company’s Board, but the former Liberian Head of State failed to pay heed to such vocal calls which emanated from both within the opposition community and the civil society.

Also, intense bickering over the collapse of NOCAL which led the government ordering of an audit of the entity, whose findings disturbingly revealed gross mismanaged, overstaffing, and willful looting and abuse of the company’s resources, a situation which also culminated into the downsizing of the company’s staff by the Sirleaf’s government.

Prosecution of public officials accused of looting NOCAL’s coffers still lingers as the Weah administration strives to restore the company’s lost image.

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) which reports in consonant with the Economist Intelligence Unit, Oil and Gas reserves off the West African Coastal Field (including Liberian and Sierra Leonean provincial seawaters) are estimated at 3.2bn barrels. The SUGS report also revealed that Liberia Oil Basin consists of 30 concessionary blocks.

“We have to get in there and ensure that we do the right thing for the Liberian people to benefit because, in all that we do there at NOCAL, the Liberian people should get the maximum benefit of their resources,” CEO Gray expatiated further.

Saifuah Mai Gray is the Managing Director of the International Law Group (ILG) and former Medical Service Coordinator at the Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, United States of America.

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