By J. Yanqui Zaza
Dr. Rudolph McClain of NOCAL
On June 30, 2014, during a press conference, according to FrontPage Africa, Dr. Rudolph McClain, chief executive of the Liberian National Oil Company (NOCAL), took on critics of his boss, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as well as NOCAL. He said that NOCAL is performing a super job, apparently, trying to counter critics such as Mr. Christopher Neyor, who has accused President Sirleaf and NOCAL of siphoning money from NOCAL to President Sirleaf’s coffer.
The verdict is still out there whether Dr. McClain did restore or hurt President Sirleaf’s credibility and the credibility of the President’s son, Robert Sirleaf, the former chairman of the Board and former chief executive of NOCAL.
According to Frntpageafrica, Dr. McClain stated that NOCAL’s critics based their stories on falsehood. He even tried to imply that NOCAL did not unlawfully spend $138 million dollars, although the Liberian 2012/2013 Budgetary Documents indicated so. Additionally, he claimed that NOCAL is transparent, again, even though NOCAL’s revenue and expense figures are not reported for two consecutive fiscal periods, 2013/14 and 2014/15, a violation of the 2009 PFM Law.
It was the fear of violating another law on transferring public money to personal coffer that made Mr. Neyor write an email to President Sirleaf. Instead of receiving a badge of honor for disclosing an unlawful request, Mr. Neyor said President Sirleaf dismissed him. The would-be unlawful act began when a presidential adviser asked Mr. Neyor, then chairman and chief executive of the lucrative Liberia National Oil Company, to donate $2 million to the presidential campaign. He declined to carry out the request. Not satisfied, he informed President Sirleaf in the presence of the Minister of Justice. As a follow up, he wrote an email to President Sirleaf and reported his complaint.
In an unrelated article preceding Mr. Neyor’s series of allegations, I had asked whether the Liberian lawmaker did authorize NOCAL to spend $138 million in fiscal year 2012/13, which was about one-third (1/3) of the national budget. I also, asked why President Sirleaf, through her economic adviser, did not include NOCAL’s revenue and expense figures within the national budget of the 2013/14 fiscal years. The below 2014/15 budget is the official budget.
During the conference on Monday, June 30, 2014, Dr. McClain did not comment on why NOCAL’s revenue and expense figures were not included within two consecutive budget documents. However, to prove that critics’ information and numbers were based on falsehood, Dr. McClain asserted that NOCAL has contributed money to the Liberian National Budget. For instance, NOCAL donated dividends to the government, he said. Also, Dr. McClain stated that NOCAL netted US$45 Million for the government in the 2012/2013 fiscal Period from an agreement reached with Exxon Mobil on Block 13. Well yes, the executive summary of the 2012/13 and 2013/14 Budget documents did disclose that NOCAL and LPRC donated dividends, but not anything close to the $45 million. Mathematically, it was difficult for NOCAL to have remitted $45 million in 2012/13 fiscal years since NOCAL’s net income was $7 million ($145 million revenue minus $138 million expenses).
Okay, if one were to assume that the $45 million donation was included within NOCAL’s $138 million expenses, where does the $45 million appear within the revenue section of the national budget? Since the $45 million cannot be traced to any section of the revenue of the national government, were the recipients other state-owned entities, other governmental agencies or Presidential advisers as Mr. Neyor has alleged? Or did Dr. McClain, in an effort to refute Mr. Neyor’s allegation, give wrong information? Did his subordinate(s) mislead him about the $45 million?
If not misled by his subordinates, did the chief executive succumb to undue influence and give the $45 million to presidential advisers? The latter scenario is not a far-fetched scenario. According to Professor Leonard Shaidi, an author of a book about corruption in Tanzania, individual(s) engage in corruption when there is meeting of opportunity (i.e., an employment/bribe and inclination (i.e., the desire to assist an investor or a superior). And even when subordinates try to be honest and be principled, intense lobbying and undue influence compel them to succumb to misappropriation and corruption.
Looking at NOCAL’s number of employees (155) and total salary expense ($7 million) as compared to next higher paid state-owned entities, LPRC’s $6 million for 300 employees, there was good employment opportunity at NOCAL than at any another state-owned entities. With such a lucrative salary arrangement, was it not possible for employees, including managers, to yield to intense lobbying? I think so.
If NOCAL officials, including Robert Sirleaf, President Sirleaf’s son, did not have the fear of reporting $138 million questionable expenses and, or violating 2009 PFM Law, would they risk their employment and resist undue influence? I doubt it. More so, President Sirleaf, not wanting to hire lieutenants who dare to question her request, continues to seek subordinates who are susceptible or gullible to manipulation and presidential power. So, it is not difficult to believe Mr. Neyor’s version of the story, nor difficult to imagine why President Sirleaf appointed her son to manage the most lucrative state-owned entities at a time she needed money in order to finance her 2011 presidential campaign.