Liberia President Sirleaf opens oil books to the publicBy KEMO CHAM in Freetown | Thursday, April 12 2012 at 12:46
The Liberian government has ordered the public disclosure of all financial records of the National Oil Company of Liberia (Nocal) to ensure transparency.
This follows unrelenting criticism of how the company is run and which intensified with the appointment of one of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf`s son as chairman of Nocal's board of directors.
At a news conference at the Executive Mansion (State House) Tuesday, presidential press secretary Jerolinmek Piah again rebutted accusations of nepotism on Mrs Sirleaf's part.
Mr Robert Sirleaf is one of the President's four sons. But he is the most prominent among his siblings, being a senior adviser to his mother.
Critics say his appointment to head the national oil company went too far and was an act of nepotism on the part of the President.
"Beyond the qualification of Mr Sirleaf and his pro-bono service to the government, the President has requested the chief executive officer of Nocal to open all financial books to the public," Mr Piah said.
"The action is meant to ensure openness, transparency surrounding the operations at Nocal."
Mrs Sireaf has sought to defend the decision to appoint her son, but the condemnation has refused to die.
State House has sought to argue that the criticism against Mr Sirleaf's appointment is against his person rather than due to fears of corruption and nepotism.
Mr Piah said they [President`s Office] were convinced that the issue had nothing to do with the question of nepotism, but rather with Robert Sirleaf.
He referred journalists back to the case of Taiwan Gongolo, a minister who served in Mrs Sirleaf's first term as President and who was sacked in cabinet reshuffle this year, as "a prominent figure" among individuals taking issue with Robert's appointment.
"There are other individuals, who have blood ties with the President, and also serving in government… these individuals have been serving in government for many years with no qualms being raised by the public," said the spokesman.
A recent announcement by African Petroleum of the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in its exploration blocks off Liberia’s shores heightened national expectations of the benefits to be derived from it.
There are concerns over prudent management of oil revenue, hence focus on the role of Nocal. Mr Sirleaf's appointment has also been viewed through his qualifications to head the oil body, but the presidency has countered this by citing his 20 years of experience on Wall Street in the US.
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