Despite public outcry over Liberia’s poor infrastructure development program, the 53rd National Legislature has justified the usage of US$900,000 for the ongoing nationwide consultation on the Draft Petroleum Law of Liberia.
The Executive Branch, through the National Oil Company of Liberia, (NOCAL) submitted a draft petroleum law intended to govern the oil and gas sector, a sector considered vital to Liberia’s emerging economy.
The Liberian Senate had since held public hearings on the subject and subsequently passed and communicated the draft legislation to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
In an attempt to take a legislative decision, the House of Representatives opted to have “a nationwide consultation before voting on the matter.”
“The intent,” Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue saidMonday, November 11, “is to have inclusive participation of the locals and all county officials.”
“US$900,000 is the budget for the consultation,” he said. Quizzed as to whether the budget was drawn from the Legislature’s budget line or NOCAL, Deputy Speaker Barchue added “go and check the budget.”
Interestingly, the approved National Budget for the Fiscal Year 2013/2014 has no reference to ongoing National Consultation, where said amount came from remains unclear.
According to the Grand Bassa County Representative, the Draft Legislation discusses several issues ranging from Liberians’ participation in the oil and gas sector, to better royalties for the counties and communities where crude oil deposits are found amongst other things.
However, political commentators have criticized the Legislature for failing to incorporate therecommendations and input of locals relative to national issues. They argued that the Legislature had ignored public interest on several pivotal issues.
They name confirmation of public officials, the Decent Work Bill, the Code of Conduct, and most importantly, the passage of Oil Block 13, a concession awarded to Exxon Mobile to operate in Rivercess County, as some legislations where the public interest and right to participate had been ignored.
“Government has failed to provide housing units for low income dwellers. Spending such a huge amount of money on a mere consultation where the people’s views will not be reflected in the documents is unfortunate. That money could go towards improving our poor roads or building educational and medical facilities,” some political and legislative commentators told the Daily Observer yesterday in Monrovia
Meanwhile, the second leg of the consultation goes to Western Liberia with some members of the Senate, which already passed the draft legislation, expected to form part of the delegation.