By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie
The 53rd House of Representatives has disclosed that its leadership is expending US$900,000 budget to encourage public engagement and participation at a forum on the draft oil reform law being initiated by them and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
The public engagement is designed by the lawmakers to give Liberians the opportunity to have an input in the draft petroleum (exploration and production) Act of 2013 before its passage into law.
The draft bill has already been passed in September 2013, by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The House has failed to concur on the bill because according to them, they had limited time to review the law to make input. It was based on one of the factors that they agreed to embark on a nationwide tour and discuss with the ordinary people.
Grand Bassa County Representative and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hans Barchu, told legislative reporters yesterday that a portion of the US$900,000 is used to sponsor 20 persons designated by their lawmakers to be represented at the ongoing forum and town hall meeting taking place in various counties.
The Deputy Speaker said the House has decided to take full responsibility of those 20 participants’ food, transport and lodging for the number of days the forum would last for in each county.
When asked about the source of the US$900,000, Deputy Speaker Barchu could neither confirm nor deny that NOCAL has provided the money but referred legislative reporters to review the 2013/2014 budget line.
“I asked you to check the budget line to know whether the money comes from NOCAL or the legislature, but let me tell you that NOCAL did not provide money to this process,” he asserted.
Lawmaker Barchu however lauded the media and the people of Bong, Lofa, and Nimba Counties for their contributions, comments, suggestions and concerns to the draft oil law. He said while in the three counties, most of the citizens are concerned mostly about their benefits and how the sector would be protected for the future generation.
Meanwhile, the second leg of the nationwide tour has begun with executives, technicians of NOCAL and the members of the National Legislature currently visiting Bomi, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties in continuation of the process.