>Liberia: Rip-Off Or Help?

>Source: New Democrat News Monrovia

Details have emerged of how the Liberian Government entered into an agreement with the Nigerian Government for the lifting of crude oil as assistance from Abuja worth an estimated US318, 761,591.24 but with the Government getting US553, 000 out of the deal, according to a General Auditing Commission (GAC) audit for the financial years 2006 to 2007.

Auditors said their attempt to get documents from the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr., on the deal was stalled, and that they had to travel to Nigeria for the full picture of the deal to unfold.

Apart from the US553, 000 the Government earned out of 3, 650,000 barrels of product, auditors discovered that the Nigerian company lifted more than US1m in excess of the agreement.

Responding to this discovery, Mr. Greaves, according to the audit, said he did not know that the Nigerian company had done this, but said the company later apologized. Moreover, according to the audit, there was no formal contract between the Nigerian company and LPRC, freeing the former from legal liabilities.

Discussions for the celebrated Nigerian oil deal, meant for postwar reconstruction assistance, began with the Charles Gyude Bryant interim regime and continued under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with the deal finally consummated. Involved were the Ministries of Finance, Justice, LPRC, Government of Nigeria, Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNCP) and the Nigerian company Addax.

The audit: “The total quantity of crude oil that the Government of Nigeria through its NPPC agreed to supply to the Government of Liberia through LPRC was 3,650,000 barrels, amounting to 10,000 barrel per day. But through an extended audit procedure, auditors uncovered that Addax continued to lift crude oil in the name of the Government of Liberia/LPRC in excess of the agreed upon quantity. The total quantity that was uncovered as being lifted by Addax was 4,652,796 barrels at a total value of US$318,761,591.24. This means 1,002,796 barrels was lifted in excess of the agreed upon quantity.

There was no contract, much less a contract modification that would provide the legal basis for Addax to lift the excess in the name of the Government of Liberia/LPRC. Although this matter was brought to the attention of MD Greaves, no evidence of any legal action was taken against Addax.”

Excerpts outlining the AG’s observation: I reviewed the document representing the contract between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the LPRC for the purchase of specified barrels of crude oil per day to the Government of Liberia (GOL), and also the contract signed between LPRC and Addax Limited for the sale of the said crude oil to Addax Limited. My objective was to assure due accountability and transparency in all aspects of the “Nigerian Oil Deal.” I determined that the entire Nigeria Oil Deal was covered with vagueness, meaning it was executed in a manner that lacks transparency and accountability. Managing Director Harry Greaves single-handedly managed the contractual arrangement without much involvement of the Board of Directors. I therefore could not assure whether the deal met the desired benefit for which it was intended.

The Nigerian Government agreed to a request by the Liberian government to provide 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day. However, the bilateral agreement was given to LPRC because the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) indicated that it does not deal with governments or any sovereign authorities, but with public companies.

Even though the NNPC did not sign the prepared agreement with LPRC for the supply of the agreed 10,000 barrels of crude oil per day, the former went ahead and supplied the oil, a situation unexpected in business dealings.

An auditing was sent to NNPC in Nigeria, but cooperation was limited, as NNPC could not indicate the substantive basis for consummating a contractual agreement in the absence of a valid contract that was duly signed and notarized.

The oil was lifted by Addax, a company contracted by Managing Director Harry Greaves, which was effectuated without applying the provisions of the PPC Act, 2005. The Board’s approval was also not evidenced prior to awarding the contract to Addax, and it was therefore a unilateral decision.

Managing Director Greaves indicated that he considered the transaction as a sales contract and not procurement, since the Procurement Act “mentioned disposal of assets only”.

I disagreed with the MD since the lifting of the oil constitutes essentially a procurement falling under the International Competitive Bidding process as provided for under the Schedule for Thresholds of the PPC Act, 2005.

This process requires that the company selected to lift the oil be determined through an international competitive bidding process, a procedure that was not followed. The 10,000 barrels of crude oil per day was an asset belonging to LPRC, which was subsequently disposed off in an ‘arm length transaction’ with Addax.

But Managing Director Greaves tried to confuse the issue when he argued that “LPRC’s contract with NNPC was a procurement contract,” but “LPRC’s contract with Addax was a sales contract.” First, the agreement with NNPC was a bilateral agreement. This is evidenced by the Minister of Finance, Antoinette Sayeh’s letter dated 31 July 2006 indicating to NNPC that LPRC will represent the Government of Liberia in this transaction, as NNPC indicated that it could only do business with a commercial entity. Second, Managing Director Greaves did not provide evidence that the contract with NNPC was competitively bade since he claimed it was a procurement contract, thus falling under the provisions of the PPC Act, 2005.

He did not provide evidence of competitive bidding for either Addax or NNPC. Either way, he contravened the PPC Act, 2005. Granted that the contracts among LPRC, NNPC and Addax, were even without blemish, the non-adherence to provisions of the PPC Act, 2005 in the selection of Addax, constitutes a major risk, as the fee declared as receivable for the oil lifting may not have reflected a fair deal for the LPRC, and thus the Liberian government.

As indicated, NNPC did not sign the oil supply agreement with LPRC and yet permitted the oil to be lifted by Addax on behalf of LPRC. There was, therefore, no legal basis for Addax to lift the crude oil in the absence of a valid contract that was duly signed and notarized, although NNPC consummated the agreement when it allowed Addax to lift the crude oil.

Auditors noted that the terms of the agreement entered into between the LPRC and NNPC did not specify any preferential price for the oil to be lifted by LPRC, but that the price would be the prevailing price at the time of lifting the crude oil. Also, NNPC demanded US$1,000,000.00 as the initial deposit option cost. The absence of the preferential price in the contract rendered it a nullity.

According to the audit, Managing Director Harry Greaves said he was not aware that Addax lifted the excess barrel until I brought the matter to his attention. Managing Director Greaves wrote:

“As regards the two lifting in October 2007, we were not aware of their occurrence. Addax has since confirmed to us that they were able to negotiate the additional lifting, explaining that their failure to notify us was inadvertent and resulted from some personal changes in their organization. They will settle the net amount owed us.”

“When the GAC auditors brought to our attention the fact that an additional cargo was lifted under the contract (of which we were not aware at the time), we contacted Addax who apologized, explaining that this was an oversight resulting from personnel changes within their organization. We reconciled the account and they made the additional payment to LPRC.”

But the AG described as “unacceptable justification in international business dealings” Addax’s lifting of additional crude oil in the name of the Government of Liberia/LPRC without an implicit approval or knowledge of LPRC’s management.

In the absence of GAC auditors uncovering the additional lifting, there was no evidence provided that Addax was making any efforts to remedy the situation.

Management’s argument that LPRC has reconciled the account with Addax does not cure the deficiency noted, and this further demonstrated that this “Nigerian Oil Deal” was characterized by a complete lack of transparency, making it difficult to indicate whether value for money was achieved.

Thus the total amount generated from the oil deal was U$553,000.00, auditors were not given the total value of the transactional cost associated with this Nigeria Oil deal.

The Government of Nigeria could have avoided the transactional cost by just giving Liberia the US$553,000.00 that was reported as being the total revenue generated from this transaction. Again, it is doubtful that value for money was achieved and this transaction was done for the sole benefit of the Liberian taxpayers. The Government received US$553,000.00 on a transaction valued at US$318,761,591.24.

LPRC’s Articles of Incorporation of 31 August 1978, which provides for a 9-member Board of Directors, is silent on who appoints the Board, the audit observed.


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