MONROVIA, Montserrado – Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 29 endorsed a special presidential committee’s findings on a Global Witness report linking several former and current government officials of bribery into the sale of oil block LB13.
The committee made several recommendations, including that some former and current government officials be required to make restitutions to the government, and that a representative be further investigated.
On Tuesday, May 29, the letter from Weah on the committee’s recommendations on the misapplication of funds at NOCAL was accepted by members of the House of Representatives.
Weah, in his communication to the lawmakers, said the committee has concluded its investigation and submitted its report to his office.
The Global Witness corruption report unearthed that the acquisition of Liberia’s 13th oil block by U.S. oil giant, Exxon was a tainted deal that benefitted former government officials.
According to the report, the Liberian-Anglo company Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast, which originally owned Oil Block 13 since 2005, was partly owned by former Lands and Mines Minister Jonathan Mason and former Deputy Minister Mulbah Willie. It says the block’s 2007 ratification by the legislature was also sponsored by bribery.
Following the U.K.-based corruption watchdog’s report, the government said it was concerned about the allegations.
A Ministry of Information press release said although President George Weah commissioned a general concession review, including concessions in the oil sector, these allegations of bribery and misuse of office were deeply concerning.
“The president said if illegality is determined, those culpable will bear the full weight of the law. He urged all to cooperate,” the press release stated.
The president had instructed Justice Minister Musa Dean to investigate the matter and submit a preliminary report to him within two weeks but Dean later recused himself from the investigation to ensure independence. He said the decision to recuse himself was because he served as president and CEO of the National Oil Company of Liberia between 2004 and January 2006.
Weah later constituted a special presidential committee to investigate the Global Witness report. Ndubuisi Nwabudike chairs the committee, which consists of Pearl Brown Bull, Alexander Zoe, Joseph Gardea Johnson, and Frances Greeves.
The 35-page report issued by the presidential committee recommends that former and current government officials pay between US$5,000 US$35,000 each, totaling about US$500,000.
Those in the US$35,000 category of fines are former chairman of the National Investment Commission, Natty B. Davis; former Justice Minister Christiana Tah; former Finance Minister Amara Konneh; Robert Sirleaf, former board chair of NOCAL; former Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo; former deputy finance minister James Kollie; as well former NOCAL chief executive officer Randolph A. K. W. McClain; and Seward Cooper.
Others who are to pay back US$15,000 each are Susan Mapples, Idella Cooper Shannon, Kou Dorliae, Jeff Wood, and Alpha Shah. Anyaa Vohiri and Varbah Gayflor are those mentioned in the US$5,000 category.
The report also said all members of the NOCAL Board of Directors on April 27, 2013 are also liable for restitution and they include Fred Bass Golokeh, Joseph Howe, and Jacqueline Khoury.
The report further accused Rep. Adolph A. Lawrence of Montserrado’s fifteenth district of using his position to influence the purchase of his share in the deal, in addition to receiving bribes. The committee recommended an independent forensic investigation against Lawrence.
The president informed members of the House of Representatives that he will issue a formal position on the report after it is reviewed by the cabinet.
The House of Representatives also mandated its leadership to make sure that the recommendations are implemented by the president.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah