A presidential probe into Global Witness’ allegations of bribery and abuse of office has been concluded and President George Weah is examining the report for unspecified actions against individuals and institutions that may have been deemed culpable.
The UK based natural resource and governance watchdog said in its March 29, 2018 report that several former and current officials received irregular payments from US oil firm ExxonMobil in relation to a 2013 petroleum sharing contract reached with the then Johnson Sirleaf administration.
On Wednesday, May 16, the special presidential committee, which investigated the corruption allegation, presented its findings and recommendation to the President, an Executive Mansion statement said.
President George Weah on April 17, gave the inquiry team two weeks to probe the matter ordering all individuals connected to the reported crime to surrender to the committee for questioning.
“President Weah is reviewing the findings and recommendations made by the committee and is due to come up with an appropriate course of action shortly,” a statement posted on the presidential website said.
Based on the content of the report, Liberians and the rest of the world are watching to see whether or not Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state will stand trial for alleged acts of corruption that were committed while serving as President.
According to an expert witness, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s officials were aware they would receive individual payments in return for granting US oil firm ExxonMobil a lucrative offshore concession before the consummation of the deal.
ExxonMobil Petroleum Sharing Contract reached with the Sirleaf government in 2013 contained a clause that administration officials working on the oil deal would personally benefit from ‘bonuses’. The total amount is in the neighborhood of US$5million.
One expert flagged the issue and alerted legislators but was ignored. In a March, 2013 testimony before members of the legislature, Dr. Lester Tenny said the deal was whiffed with corruption and the provision relative to officials receiving ‘bonuses’ lacks legal basis.
“Bonuses acquired by statutory members as seen in the contract is a clear violation of the standing code of conduct,” he said.
“ The fact that the exact amount for bonuses were not announced gives room and will give rise to future suspicion of a foul play between the parties involved.”
In short, the possibility of a future investigation into the acquisition of block 13 is possible and that a future litigation of Exxon mobile is imminent, Dr. Tenny predicted in 2013.
Five years after the conclusion of the deal, Global Witness – the UK based natural resource and governance watchdog called the bonus scheme irregular payments, which must be investigated.
How Ex President Sirleaf is involved
The New Democrat has obtained evidence detailing how then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and son, Robert Sirleaf. approved the distribution of the country’s oil revenue amongst several top officials for their role in sealing US oil firm ExxonMobil petroleum exploration concession. Total amount dished out to officials is far more than what Global Witness reported.
Following Exxon acquisition of offshore oil Block 13 and subsequent payment of US$50million, the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) convened an emergency board meeting on Saturday, April 27, 2013 to discuss how they will collect some of the Oil money for personal benefit, NOCAL board resolution showed.
The resolution revealed the official solicited the payment via a proposal to President Sirleaf, which she endorsed.
Johnson Sirleaf directed that 10 percent of the US$50million be given to Hydrocarbon Technical Committee members, NOCAL officials and staff.
The resolution: “Regarding the proposal that was approved by the President of the Republic of Liberia to use approximately 10% of the income that NOCAL generated from the Block 13 transaction (which amounts to roughly 500,000 United States dollars) for the payment of bonuses to the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee and support team, the Board of Directors, the management and staff of NOCAL for their hard work and dedication to ensuring the successful completion of the project, and on motion duly made, seconded and unanimously carried, it was resolved that the Board of Directors hereby authorizes the President/CEO to disburse bonus payments in an amount not to exceed $500,000 United States dollars in order to pay bonuses to the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee and Support Team, the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of NOCAL for their hard work in accordance with the payment listing that was approved by the Board and is attached to this resolution.”
A source with knowledge of the deal said on the basis of strict anonymity that the former President authorized close to five million United States dollars to be paid to legislators and select cabinet officials.