Scare-Tactics In Corruption Probe?…As Lower House Engages In Arm-Twisting With LACC

By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The House of Representatives is said to be engaging in what is termed ‘scared tactics’ in the middle of the much anticipated Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) inquiry into the expenditure of some US$1.2 million used for the National Petroleum Consultation that is haunting that august body and has even led to serious confusion amongst its members.

The LACC is currently requesting significant documents, information or the presence of some members of the House of Representatives to include Speaker Alex Tyler, the head of that body, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, chairperson on the specialized committee on the consultation, former Rules, Order and Administration Committee Chairperson, Edwin Snow and Representatives Adolph Lawrence, mediator of the contract for the consultants, amongst others.

According to information in the public domain, the money was intended to enhance the nationwide consultation to include the hiring of three consultants but the LACC’s attempt to conduct a thorough investigation seems not to be getting anywhere apparently because the lawmakers believe that their amenities also cover not yielding to any external independent investigation.

It became an issue when on January 20, the LACC also requested the chair of the House specialized Committee on the consultation to furnish its investigation with useful information and a comprehensive expenditure report as well as appear with copies of the US$ 1, 200, 000 budget submitted by the House for the process along with vouchers and other relevant documents, like in the case with other members of that body who were previously invited.

But the tables tumbled when the House’s Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure without advising those lawmakers required for investigation to proceed in clearing their names also requested the LACC to instead submit to it several of its in-house documents without stating for which purpose its instruction was made.

The House committee’s communication dated January 21 barely a day after the invitation to the Deputy Speaker and Representative Snowe instructed the LACC saying, “Submit through the chief clerk’s office the following: the LACC’s Budget Performance Reports for the last two fiscal years including the current, the approved Procurement Plan for the last two fiscal years including the current, the personnel listing inherited by your administration and the current with a detailed payroll outlining allowances and other benefits for those periods as well as copies of the approved budgets for the last two fiscal years and the current one.”

Amazingly, the House’s Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure was among several other committees that endorsed a number of recommendations affirming legislative decisions to be taken to lead in reforming the petroleum and gas industry of Liberia for which the specialized committee was established.

Indicating that the House could not be made answerable to the LACC’s investigation, the letter under the signature of the House of Representatives’ Chief Clerk, Mildred Sayon, further directed the LACC to submit the reports not later than yesterday, January 27.

What is still of the dismay to the public is that the official position of Representative Barchue as head of the House’s specialized committee on the nationwide consultation for reform of the National Petroleum and Gas Law is that he operated a US$ 900, 000 budget accordingly.

The Deputy Speaker said he cannot be asked to account for money given the House of Representatives by the LACC and frowned that the LACC as a technical body did not know the facts before attempting to investigate.

In a press conference held yesterday at the Capitol Building, Deputy Speaker Barchue also one of the leaders of that august body blatantly described LACC’s move as an ‘elementary error’ in that it should have asked the House of Representatives to account for what it ‘allegedly’ received and not him.

Apparently to discredit the LACC further, Deputy Speaker Barchue said it is believed that the Commission should be comprised of professional lawyers who should know the law to their fingertips wondering, “Is the LACC asking me to adduce evidence against myself?”

However, directing his clarification more to the media than the LACC’s investigation team, Representative Barchue revealed that considering the doctrine of principle-agent relationship, the plenary of the House of Representatives that mandated a 22-man professionalized committee mandating him to serve as chair to conduct the nationwide consultation.

He said the committee was supposed to make a comprehensive financial report to the House’s plenary which is the principle and not the LACC as requested by the investigation team and if the Commission has any problems with receipts and expenditure of any funds paid to the House, the LACC should channel its request through the plenary and not the Deputy Speaker who is the agent.

He termed the LACC’s move to have them investigated as ‘hearsay or gossip or by facts’ because the Commission’s investigation is claiming that the US$1.2 million in question was given to the House of Representatives by NOCAL noting, “Does the LACC have evidence to substantiate this claim.”

Howbeit, the mandate of Barchue’s committee was to review the Act creating NOCAL in 2000, advice plenary on the enactment of the comprehensive National Content Law, review the Petroleum Law and further advice plenary on the enactment of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act.

Legislative observers said they are even more confused following the ‘so-called’ comprehensive expenditure report covering the consultation presented by Deputy Speaker Barchue as he described his committee’s mandate as being completed using US$ 900, 000 and that the nationwide Gas Reform consultation of US$ 1.2 million under the leadership of Speaker Tyler was a success.

Many are of the view that the consultations which included meetings and a major conference, all of which were held in Monrovia alone cannot be termed “a reflection of the views and aspirations of the Liberian people.”

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