By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
Contrary to Representatives Emmanuel Nuquay and Prince Moye’s claim that the US$ 1.2 million under debate was a single check endorsed by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for the House nation-wide consultation, the oil company has distanced itself from the entire saga. A position many have already envisaged to be a serious debate in the coming weeks, the oil company in a press release issued yesterday stated that, “Indeed, NOCAL rejects insinuations and reports emanating from individuals and institutions to the effect that the entity disbursed either the amount of US$1.2 million or US$900, 000 to the House of Representatives to conduct the nation-wide consultations.”
“NOCAL wishes to make it categorically clear that it never disbursed funds to the House of Representatives for the purpose of holding the nation-wide consultations on the new Exploration Production Act of 2013,”the release under the signature of NOCAL’s Senior Public Engagement Manager of its Division of Public Affairs, Jonathan B. Sogbie further clarified.
However, the oil company said it did provide only technical related support to the Legislature during the planning and holding of the consultations noting that, “As always, NOCAL remains committed to its core principles of transparency and accountability in the discharge of its statutory mandate.”
At the close of last week, the two lawmakers,former Chairperson and Co-Chairperson on the House’s Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee threw out the challenge that it is NOCAL and the Ministry of Finance that must do the right thing by providing further clarity on the said amount.
The two lawmakers informed the public that their signatures were affixed to a single check of US$ 1.2 million which was the budget set by the special committee for the nationwide consultation and endorsed by plenary.
For Nuquay, he said he got involved in his official capacity as Chairperson then of the Ways, Means Committee when the special committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Speaker and that Hans Barchue encountered constrains in getting the money from the Ministry of Finance.
While, Moye said he signed checks based on instructions from his chair Nuquay and some of the checks were signed without any monetary value due to the length of time he would have been out of the country since he was about to seek medical attention.
They said the money was provided from a special budget and not the national budget 2013/2014 and frankly they can speak clearly that US$ 1.2 million was given to Barchue’s committee for their work; whileDeputy Speaker Barchue did not deny receiving money, he said, all he could account for was the US$ 900, 000 budgetary allotment which was given his committee to carry out the consultation.
He cleverly told legislative reporters at the Capitol Building during his official report on the nationwide consultation for the reform of the national petroleum and gas laws that from consultations held with the comptroller of the House of Representatives, and members of the Ways, Means and Finance, the money that was paid to facilitate the nationwide tour was provided by the Government of Liberia through budgetary means and not by NOCAL.
Before NOCAL could even release what is considered its clarification, the Deputy Speaker had questioned if the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) had evidence that the US$ 1.2 million was given to the Legislature by NOCAL.
Barchue challenged the LACC’s team of investigators to have facts before attempting to investigate and apparently buttressing his colleague, Representative Clarence Massaquoi added that the LACC should direct its inquiry to the House’s plenary instead of singling out individual representatives because every lawmaker on the nationwide consultation arrangement acted based upon plenary’s mandate.
With NOCAL’s rejection about having a hand in the monetary aspect of the consultation, the public is also waiting for the response of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning on its own involvement into the hullabaloo since it would have served as government’s middle player if the money was from the Government of Liberia’s coffers or a medium, if in fact it was from NOCAL’s special account.
The comptroller of the House of Representatives also has the onus to say how the entire arrangement was made because this is no longer a secret deal as the public remains eager to hear the whole truth if the LACC is to have teeth as the President said in her 10th Annual Message.