Cllr. Althea Sherman the former Interim President and CEO of the National Oil Company of Liberia has responded to a Front Page Africa publication regarding alleged corruption at NOCAL with clarification that she played no role.
Below is he full reaction to the story: Front Page Africa (FPA) article about the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), published on 5 February 2018, unfairly associates me with a host of alleged improprieties in NOCAL’s relationship with TGS-NOPEC regarding contracts that were signed between 2002 and 2009. You do this even though you have to be fully aware that I did not arrive at NOCAL until the last quarter of 2013.
The FPA article contained numerous conjectures, misrepresentations and false conclusions. Let me set the record straight.
1) ALL but one of the contracts with TGS was negotiated and signed well before I arrived at NOCAL, and the most recent one was negotiated and signed in November 2013 (by my predecessor and without my involvement). Any improprieties that may have occurred in connection with the terms of those contracts could not have occurred on my watch.
2) The GAC audit report asserted that there were a number of errors in the computation of revenue due NOCAL under the TGS contracts. The total amount involved, as set forth in the report, was slightly under US$2.6 million. I believe this is the amount that the incoherently written FPA article attempted to highlight. Your informants must have failed to mention that immediately upon my appointment as Interim President and CEO of NOCAL in late 2015, I directed a comprehensive review of all transactions with TGS for the period February 1, 2008 through June 30, 2014. That review, and our subsequent negotiations with TGS, resulted in payments from TGS to NOCAL that totaled US$4,030,133, covering both the shortfalls mentioned in the GAC report and other discrepancies that the GAC report had failed to identify. Our negotiations also resulted in TGS agreeing to waive US$1,225,153 that NOCAL owed TGS, so that our review resulted in a total financial gain to NOCAL of US$5,255,286.
3) Your article also alleged that I had settled for a fraction of “tens of millions of dollars that TGS NOPEC owed the government of Liberia”. Well, here are the facts related to that claim:
a)The audit report indicated that NOCAL claimed costs of over US$94 million for a survey conducted under the 2007 agreement with TGS. The GAC asserted that NOCAL was entitled to 40% of the difference between that amount and the cost inventory supplied by TGS (which showed about US$85 million of costs) or an additional US$3,711,500 of revenue. In connection with the review I initiated, TGS demonstrated that the US$9 million difference was accounted for by payments made to a third party operator (with the full knowledge of former NOCAL senior management) for a portion of the seismic survey conducted pursuant to the 2007 contract. The third party has verified to NOCAL that the full amount of the difference was in fact received by it as compensation for the survey. There was therefore no extra USD$9 Million “profit” received by TGS that should have, or could have, been shared with NOCAL.
b) The audit report also stated that the auditors had reviewed a number of seismic revenue invoices presented to it that included both amounts attributed to licenses of Liberia seismic data and also amounts attributed to licenses of data from other countries. Because the GAC could not tell what country should be credited with the US$34,847,296 of charges relating to the redacted information, it listed that amount as subject to question. (Note: the GAC did not claim that TGS should have shared this amount with NOCAL but failed to do so).
c) During our review, we requested TGS to provide, and TGS did provide, confirmation, from a third party which inspected the unredacted invoices, that all of the redacted information related to countries other than Liberia. This means that the US$34 million amount did not include revenue that should have been shared with Liberia.
4) It is quite evident that your researcher or your source has no understanding of the TGS contracts or the seismic business. While it’s true the data sales serve as NOCAL’s primary source of revenue, TGS NOPEC, does not “finance” the National Oil Company of Liberia. Under the various contracts with TGS, TGS arranges for the performance of seismic surveys in Liberian waters, interprets the survey data, licenses the interpreted data to interested oil companies, and shares the licensing revenue with NOCAL.
5) Finally, it would have been inappropriate for me to provide any response related to allegations of improprieties that may have occurred prior to the time that I joined NOCAL. You are also fully knowledgeable about who were the key players at NOCAL during the period of the GAC report that served as a basis for your article. However, instead of contacting the former senior management or board members for the period in question, you decided to publish an article with the prominent use of my picture to leave the impression that I bore responsibility for the many allegations of impropriety made in your article. This was an unwarranted and vicious attack on my character. For that, Mr. Sieh, I believe you owe me an apology.
Although we inherited a company in extreme financial distress and on the brink of dissolution, the Interim Management team and I took steps to efficiently and responsibly manage the corporation’s financial and human resources, proactively engaged investors to restart industry interest in Liberia’s oil program and have secured revenue that will permit NOCAL to function for at least the next two years (if prudently and properly managed) and allow sufficient time for the new administration to take necessary steps to implement Liberia’s new petroleum law.
I remain confident that all records related to my tenure with NOCAL will also establish that I worked diligently and with the highest level of integrity and professionalism to provide financial stability to the company after several years of flat revenue and million dollar losses.
Very truly yours,