NOCAL Debunks Corruption Reports “I Have Done Nothing Wrong,” OIC Kabakole Retorts

MONROVIA: While Liberians yearn for a day when one of the world’s most precious natural resources, oil, would be found in commercial quantity in their country, eagerly hoping it would accelerate national transformation and development, the agency in charge of making this possible is often in the news, not for any pleasant reason. Mounting public anxieties and covetous inclinations have kept the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) in the hot spotlight with an ever-ceaseless outpour of accusations of corruption and graft by various citizen groups, including the media, and from one political administration to another. It would not be a surprise that the scenario is playing out, quite early, under the ruling Unity Party, with recent media reports suggesting that, yet again, corruption has made its way into the heart of the Company. But the technocrat in charge, Mr. Jacob Kabakole, has vehemently rejected the reports, claiming that he and his team have done nothing wrong, and that public needs not panic. The Analyst reports.

The interim administrator of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has been confronted with the first batch of corruption allegations, with some media entities reporting financial malpractices at the institution.

Some media reports contend that in the last few weeks of the incumbency of Mr. Jacob Kabakole, the officer in charge appointed by President Joseph N. Boakai has got the entity embroiled into corruption, with over US$600 million at stake.

But in a rather robust, immediate repulsion of the corruption allegations hanging over the National Oil Company of Liberia, the Officer in Charge has asserted that he has done nothing wrong, describing the reports as a smear campaign—and baseless.

In a special riposte, Mr. Kabakole said “in light of recent reports published by certain media outlets, it has become necessary to address the misinformation and smear campaign directed at myself and the esteemed Office of the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).

“As I have unequivocally stated, and I am now emphatically restating, I have done nothing wrong!!” he said, noting that while all evidence exists that the media outlets responsible for spreading this misinformation are simply tabloids, and not one of our more reputable brick and mortar media houses, we deem it prudent as is within my fiduciary responsibility, to get ahead of this mill and nip it in the bud.”

Speaking directly to the allegations which he described as “unfounded”, Mr. Kabakole said: “Let me be unquestionably clear: the allegations of “squandering” of funds amounting to US$ 600,000 are baseless, malicious, unfounded and without merit. At no point in my oversight of the national oil company, have I signed off on any disbursement of such a sum to anybody. These claims are not only false but are a deliberate attempt at tarnishing a reputation built on integrity and dedication to national Progress.”

The NOCAL boss said he was convinced that the “actors behind this ruse have a more immediate intention to discredit the President’s appointment of officers in charge of the company and to undermine the amount of consideration His Excellency gave to making this decision. With this realization, I am even more compelled to address the issues as I am now doing”.

To further set the record straight, Mr. Kabakole provided five points of clarifications on what he called “the factual details of the project’s progression and financial transactions prior to my appointment as Officer-in-Charge.”

According to him, on July 13, 2023, NOCAL entered into a contract with BMC Group Inc. for an office construction project, valued initially at $2.9 million. This contract was duly processed and appears to have adhered to the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) guidelines.

He said the first payment to BMC, totaling $1,456,928.84 million, was made on July 17, 2023, signifying the commencement of the contractual obligations. This payment was made in two separate checks of US$728,464.42 each.

On the third fact, he noted: “Actual construction began in November 2023, followed by a contract amendment on November 23, 2023. This amendment, approved by the PPCC, increased the contract value to $4.5 million to accommodate necessary project adjustments. The new amount represented an increment of $1.5 million or 51.72%.”

The interim manager of the country’s hydrocarbon further clarified: “NOCAL hired TSC Global as its Project Consultant with the primary responsibility of monitoring, evaluating, and certifying that BMC was carrying out the Project according to the terms and specifications of the contract.

On December 15, 2023, an additional payment of $ 796,259.39 was made to BMC, bringing the total disbursement to $2.2 million, which accounted for 50% of the revised contract value.

He said it is crucial to note that these developments, including the financial transactions, occurred before his appointment.

“My official responsibilities commenced on January 29, 2024, by which time the project was well advanced, and the outlined payments had been completed,” he said. “In continuation of the facts stated above we have paid 6.7 % of employees’ educational benefits which my predecessor did not see as a priority over a five-year period.

“The leadership of the company at the time claimed it was executing austerity measures and educational benefits were not as critical for the operational expense of NOCAL. The Institution on my arrival owed 132, 750.00 USD to staff for educational benefits. The same leadership unfortunately during their departure paid severance in the tune of close to half a million dollars defeating their previous argument for refusing to pay employee benefit.”

Mr. Kabakole promised to remain unwavering in his oversight of the very important national corporation, which he stated is his commitment to the betterment of NOCAL and, by extension, Liberia.

“I understand how I may appear as an easy target on account of my relationship to his Excellency, but no-one should be fooled by this,” he said admittedly. “This is not a weakness, but a strength that encourages me to be extra diligent and to work demonstratively harder to achieve the pillars of the RESCUE agenda for Liberia.”

He continued: “If anyone has evidence to contradict anything stated here, I challenge you to provide it to the public or refrain from impugning my good character. The attempts to discredit me, fueled by political motives, will not deter us from our mission to rescue Liberia through the responsible management of our oil resources. We remain focused on our goals and will not be swayed by malicious narratives. We call on the media to uphold the principles of fair and accurate reporting and to refrain from participating in character assassination.”

He averred that under his leadership, the National Oil Company of Liberia remains dedicated to the responsible development and management of Liberia’s energy resources, driving growth, and ensuring the prosperity of our nation.

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