Mrs. Marie Urey ColemanOp-ed 

Own the Mess at LPRC, Mr President, the last buck stops with you 

 

 

In all respect, the government of Liberia must and should immediately take responsibility for the missing petroleum products at LPRC. It makes no sense for merchants commodities entrusted to the government to go missing and the very government is ordering products to replace these merchants as an importer. Unless we are being convinced that this is just a way of putting these importers out of business, only fanatics will see this differently. When a scoping investigation showed that more money than required was printed at the CBL, Weeks and Sirleaf were led away from their offices to prison. That same report laid blame on a committee led by the MFDP for mishandling millions of US dollars and no action was taken. A few months later, it became public knowledge that there had been unauthorized withdrawals by the very MFDP from accounts at CBL belonging to foreign partners. No action, again, was taken. The partners demanded that missing the sums be restituted and the fact that none of the ultimatum set by the international partners than had the government failed to pay back the stolen money was carried out, it tells that money has been restituted.

It has also come to public knowledge that 60% of gasoline owned by importers in Liberia and kept in LPRC storage tanks have evaporated. The government has set up a committee of low-level officials from mainly the Ministry of Commerce and LRA to investigate. Although this is a criminal matter, no police, NSA or CID involvement is encouraged. There is also no representation from the government auditing office GAC. But here’s the most interesting two things: the woman who was head of the LPRC for most of the period the products went missing, January 2017 to January 2019, is now at the CBL manning the national coffers. A confidante of the President, she was LPRC boss until September of 2019 and then she was transferred to the CBL after a job well done: robbing the importers! One can only wonder what’s going to happen to the national coffers. I can bet everything, she’s never going to face questioning let alone an arrest or a jail term.

While all this drama is playing out, yes the second interesting thing is the government is now going to be the new importers. The unanswered questions are: will the government import huge long term quantity; will profits margin on the government imports be the same as the private importers; who pays for the losses these importers have suffered; for the period that the government is going to act as importer, what becomes of the private importers business and their hundreds of employees?

Here is what the public is missing: Emmanuel Shaw, senior economic advisor to the President as Minister of Finance to Samuel Doe in 1988, used his office to set up a private gasoline importing business, LNPC owned by Doe and Shaw. Interestingly, they took over the LPRC tank farm and brought in their products, ending petroleum refining in Liberia. Now with different strokes, Shaw is in the President’s Office and this mysterious gasoline evaporation at huge quantity has taken place. The remedy: the government is taking over the oil business. Don’t be a shock when there become shortages of rice and no one but the government steps in and starts importing rice. Who knows what is going to go short again and that this government will seize the market and become the trader.

—–C. Jablasone

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