Ellen Endorses NOCAL’s Action Plan…Leaves For Tokyo

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has endorsed the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Board’s approved Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) aimed at ensuring the viability of the entity so that it continues to pursue its mission to develop Liberia’s hydrocarbon resources effectively in the best interest of the nation.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader was speaking in a nationwide address delivered from her Foreign Ministry office on Tuesday, August 25, 2015.

She said the Board’s Action Plan calls for drastic steps to bring costs under control and put NOCAL on a more viable financial footing, adding that these would include significant staff cuts, a reconstitution of the Board, and retirement/replacement of the senior executive leadership. Madam Sirleaf described the steps as necessary to ensure that NOCAL can perform its duties to manage and develop Liberia’s oil resources, and to rectify recent mistakes in its performance.

The Liberian Chief Executive recalled the caliber of companies that were attracted to Liberia’s acreage to pursue exploration activities as also high, with major exploration deals struck between NOCAL and the world’s top oil companies (Chevron and Exxon Mobil) as well as the largest signature bonus (US$50 million) ever for a “Frontier” country such as Liberia.

She underscored that the execution of Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with super majors and other reputable international oil companies also resulted in significant interest in Liberia’s hydrocarbon sector with record licensing of seismic data and related revenue; noting that during this period, average revenue generated, US$30.5 million, compared to average annual revenue of US$4.5 million in prior years. This, according to her, translated into US$10.6 million annual payments to the Government’s Consolidated Fund. The average annual revenue for the sale of seismic data/component for the period 2010–2013 was US$15.6 million – a 300 percent increase when compared to annual seismic revenue generated for earlier periods, she indicated.

President Sirleaf stressed that it was regrettable that, commencing in the fourth quarter of 2013, NOCAL’s revenue for seismic data sale began a precipitous decline, during which total seismic revenue fell by 29 percent from the prior fiscal year and was compounded by the Ebola virus disease of 2014 that led to a reduction in investor interest across all economic sectors for the impacted West African region.

“There is no doubt that the current oil price collapse and other external factors, including our recent Ebola challenge contributed to the current financial crisis that the company is facing”. She further intimated that despite the obvious decline in revenue that began in late 2013, NOCAL continued hiring staff at an alarming rate with exorbitant benefits resulting in the current wage bill of over US$7 million per annum,” the Liberian leader indicated.

She however emphasized that the alarming situation at NOCAL prompted her action to instruct NOCAL’s Board of Directors to take immediate action to ensure that the institution is restructured for organizational efficiency and effectiveness; as well as to ensure most prudent handling of the country’s financial resources taking into account the Board’s Sustainability Action Plan.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf said the following administrative actions became prudently compelling:

  1. A few members of the Board will continue as an Interim Board until reconstituted. Appropriate severance payment will be made to those leaving.
  2. Contrary to practice, she directed that severance to senior management be reduced by 50 percent and further subjected to tax deductions.
  3. The current President/CEO will be retired with severance, as approved.
  4. The Board will require the immediate resignation or dismissal of the Vice President for Administration, the Vice President for Public Affairs and the Acting Vice President for Corporate Social Relations (CSR) who will receive severance as approved.
  5. An Interim Transition Team composed of the current Chief Operating Officer, the Vice President of Finance and the Vice President of Technical Services, will hold over in the transition period, with severance delayed until the period is over.
  1. The Interim Transition Team under guidance of the Board will take on the immediate task of implementing the SAP, including payment of severance to employees at all levels of the organization and reducing staff to not more than 50 employees.
  2. The Interim Board and Interim Management Team will assure responsibility to implement the Media Intervention Framework and the Security Plan to protect physical assets and documentation. It will give support to the Internal Audit Agency which has been authorized to audit and undertake an inventory of all physical assets.

Meanwhile, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has departed the country for Tokyo, Japan to attend the 2nd World Assembly for Women: WAW 2015 which runs from August 28 to 29, 2015.

According to an Executive Mansion release, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Aba will deliver opening statement; while the Liberian leader will deliver the Keynote Address at the opening of the conference.   The Executive Director of UN Women, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka will also make remarks at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, New Takanawa.

The Women Assembly for Women, being held under the theme: “WAW! For All”, brings together 140 leaders of various fields from more than 40 countries and seven international organizations. It is one of the efforts to achieve “A Society where Women Shine’ and continues to be one of the priority issues of the Government of Japanese Prime Minister Shino Abe.

At the High Level Round Table on August 29, issues widely covered both in Japan and the world including “Work-Life Balance Management” and “Women and Peace-Building” will be discussed in six sessions under the two main themes of “Women and Economy” and “Global Challenges.” In addition, six special sessions including “Youth Table,” “Implementing Diversity and Innovation,” “Improvement of Women’s Quality of Life and Restroom,” “Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction,” will provide a venue for discussion about the promotion of women’s participation in society from a broad perspective.

This year, many events will be held in collaboration with relevant organizations. Such events include sessions with the Asia Foundation and UNICEF Tokyo Office and a meeting among the members of Equal Futures Partnership, which is as a multilateral initiative regarding women’s empowerment.

During bilateral talks with Prime Minister Abe, President Sirleaf is expected to obtain confirmation on the commitment of Japan to undertake the construction of the second two lanes of Somalia Drive from Freeport to Red Light. The construction of the first two lanes and the bridges commenced in the dry season of 2014, but was suspended during the Ebola crisis. Work is expected to resume in October 2015.

During President Sirleaf’s brief absence from the country, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr., will coordinate the work of the Cabinet in consultation with Vice President, Dr. Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. She is expected back on Sunday, August 30, 2015.