13 March 2014, Monrovia — The Nationwide consultative tour on the reform Petroleum law of Liberia initiated by the House of Representatives appears to be hijacked by the Executive Branch of government with Legislators being placed in the back seat.
Last year, the legislature undertook a nationwide consultative tour intended to take the National Petroleum reform law to ordinary Liberians after it was passed by the Senate but put on hold by the lower house.
During the nationwide tour last year, Lawmakers visited all fifteen counties where citizens were given the opportunity to voice their views about the country’s emerging sector. Many in attendance recommended and suggested policies necessary to protect the country’s oil sector.
It was announced after the fifteen-county tour that a National consultative forum would be held to climax. However, to the surprise of many, including the Media, a six-day roundtable consultative forum kicked off on Monday marred by poor attendance.
The forum opening graced by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself was attended by most of her cabinet ministers, six foreign oil experts and less than four representatives from the civil society sector. No Lawmaker was present.
Some observers attributed to the absence of the media to the result of the lack of information and publicity created by the organizers of the forum. Despite the presence of House Speaker Alex Tyler at the opening ceremony of the six-day events, the Legislative Press Bureau was not aware of the event.
Complicating matters, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil Company of Liberia, Dr. Randolph McClain’s name was not included in the program prepared for the opening ceremony due to what some say is an internal crisis within NOCAL.
Journalists attending the event this week counted less than 20 participants at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex. In an interview with reporters, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue apologized for the level of low publicity on the consultative round table discussion.
Asked whether the legislature was still operating on the US$900,000 proposed budget by the legislature, the Deputy Speaker said: “Yes, we are very transparent in what we do. I can promise you that at the end of this forum we will give you a detailed breakdown on how the money was used. It will be unfair if we leave the process in the middle and give a report. So please be patient.”
Asked if he was disappointed about the poor attendance of delegates, the Deputy Speaker said: “I am not embarrassed. This discussion is targeting specific interest groups; this is not a general consultation. We want the roundtable to be able pin-point people’s views.”
Deputy Speaker Barchue also told reporters that the three experts brought from Alaska are not being paid, dismissing speculations that the experts, including the grandson of President Sirleaf’s sister, were being paid heftily by NOCAL to participate in the roundtable.