“Conflict of Interest” has become the latest jargon on the lips of many Monrovians, especially following a national radio broadcast by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announcing her intention to seek concurrence from the Legislature to dismiss the Auditor general of Liberia, Mr. Robert L. Kilby. President Sirleaf’s decision was against the backdrop of a deal between Auditor General Kilby’s private company (from which he reportedly relinquished himself in October 2012-a month after his confirmation by the Liberian senate) and the General Service Agency.
Must Be Holistic, Not Selective
“Conflict of interest”, itself, is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest, and is independent from the execution of impropriety, and can also be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. With the stage now set on Mr. Kilby, even though he was never given the opportunity to be heard either by the President or House of representatives, more issues of conflict of interest are emerging.
At the core of a deal clearly indicative of the breach of the government’s conflict of interest policy is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL, Dr. Randolph McClain. He single-handedly, without the PPCC approval, awarded over US$700,000.00 contract to the American firm Dupont de Nemours International company- a company Dr. McClain last worked for before his appointment as the company’s Chief Executive. The contract is the company’s Safety, Health and Environmental Care Training and Process Safety Management Project Agreement, which Dupont has already begun to implement in consonance with the agreement. The contractor currently has an invoice of US$45, 000 lying on NOCAL’s desk for initial payment.
Early this year, Dr. McClain wrote the Public Procurement and Concession Commission requesting the latter to allow NOCAL to award a contract to Dupont through a process of single sourcing, but the PPCC, on February 26, 2013, rejected such request on ground that all contracts exceeding the threshold of US$250,000.00, in keeping with its Regulation No 003, warranted the signatures of the Ministers of Justice and Finance as evidence of their participation in the negotiation and review process.
The President of the National Oil Company failed to adhere to a communication addressed to him, on February 26, requesting him to update the contract and submit same to facilitate an informed decision, as well as ignored another communication on July 10, reminding him to submit information regarding the status of the award of the contract for the services as indicated above. But Dr. McClain deliberately chose to single-handily awarded another contract of US$100,000.00 to Cape Resources-a company owned by a relative of his, to rewire the building hosting NOCAL offices ( the Episcopal Building).
With the foregoing revelations and complete breach of the government’s “policy” of conflict of interest, which was recently made publicly practical by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf against Auditor General Robert L . Kilby, all eyes are now set on the Executive Mansion to determine whether or not the President of the national Oil Company was engulfed in “conflict of interest. If such policy is totally in the interest of the administration and the nation and its people, as well as applied to a public official, it must be across the board devoid of all sentiments and relationships.
It is even unfortunate that the House of Representatives, which purportedly uncovered the so-called “Kilby Gate” , through one of its members, continues to remain conspicuously silent on this latest conflict of interest involving the President of NOCAL, Dr. Randolph McClain. Should the House of Representatives begin to rise above sentiments and prejudices as many Liberians have always noted since 2006, it members could better serve the interest of the people of Liberia and not themselves as the people now consider them. Conflict of Interest must not be selective, but across the board.