The House of Representatives has mandated the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to investigate the US$1.2 million used on the 2013 Nationwide Oil Consultation tour, including US$100,000 which is believed to have "vanished into thin air." The tour was intended for the passage of the New Petroleum (Oil & Gas) Laws.
In Thursday's session, an 8-man committee was authorized to 'investigate and report' to the House's Plenary in two weeks, on or before Thursday, February 9.
Rep. Thomas Fallah (Montserrado County District #5) is the chairman of the House's PAC and Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah is the co-chairman. Members are Rep. Abraham V. Corneh, Rep. Lester Paye, Rep. James Biney, Rep. Morais Waylee, Rep. Clarence Massaquoi and Rep. Sekou Konneh.
Letter of Indulgence
The investigation was re-launched last Thursday owing to a letter to Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay from Bong County's Jorquelleh District #2 Representative Prince K. Moye - who is also the chairman on Ways, Means, and Finance & Development Planning.
In the letter of indulgence, Rep. Moye said: "In November 2013, US$1,200,000 was sent to the House's account of the Oil Consultation Proposal that was sent to the Executive by the leadership of the House. US$200,000 of this amount was sent from the House of Representatives account to the Senate for the same purpose; thus leaving the House with US$1 million. At the closure of the consultation, it was reported that only US$900,000 was received by the House, leaving US$100,000 unaccounted for.
"Hon. Speaker, as co-chairman (Ways, Means Finance & Development Planning) under your leadership as chairman of the Ways, Means Finance & Development Planning, the investigation on this matter of the US$100,000 was then passed to Rep. Moses Kollie who took over the Committee's leadership.
Since then there was no report made by the Moses Kollie's led committee to the Plenary of this House on the expenditure of the US$100,000. Since then, Hon. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, nothing has been heard or reported on how the US$100,000 was used."
Truth before Reconciliation
Rep. Moye said although Speaker Nuquay's ambition is to reconcile members of the House of Representatives and repair the image of the House from bad press as well as from public disrepute, it would be sensible for the House to seek the truth first.
"Hon. Speaker, when you took over in your acceptance speech you said you were going to rebrand the image of the House, and the US$100,000 should be investigated to bring this matter to a definite closure.
"As a signatory to the account by then and now, the bank statement covering the period November 1 - December 30, 2013, clearly showed that the US$1 million was withdrawn from the House's account by the Finance Section. During all of the withdrawals, there was no point in time US$100,000 was withdrawn. All of the withdrawals were below or above US$100,000, which showed that there was no US$100,000 withdrawal/s that got missing on account of checks that were signed and left with the Comptroller, based on instruction by the then leadership," he said.
Deputy Speaker Barchue
At the end of the two-month's Nationwide Oil Consultation Tour, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, who was the chairman on the Oil Consultation Tour, made a formal report to the House Plenary to the tune of US$900,000.
Deputy Speaker Barchue spearheaded the nationwide consultations on the new oil law in 2013 and US$ 1.2 million was given by the Ministry of Finance. The National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has distanced itself from allegations that it gave the money to the legislature.
Deputy Speaker Barchue acknowledged to reporters that his budget for the oil consultations was US$900,000, which he argued was used for its intended purpose.
"From the onset, I have repeatedly told the public that my budget for the nationwide consultation was US$900,000 and said amount was used accordingly," he told reporters at a press conference held at the Capitol Building.
Barchue refused to submit to an investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) when he was called for questioning on the Nationwide Oil and Gas Consultation Tour, arguing that the House's Plenary mandated him not to subject himself to LACC inquiry.
The Deputy Speaker said in response that only the House's Plenary has the right to ask him for an audit or for an investigation, and therefore the LACC should write the House's Plenary to mandate him to appear before the LACC
Speaker Nuquay and Rep. Edwin M. Snowe Culpable?
As it relates to the US$100,000 which has allegedly 'vanished in thin air,' sources said then that former chairmen on Ways, Means and Finance and Rules, Order and Administration, Reps. Emmanuel Nuquay and Edwin M. Snowe, respectively, on orders of the Deputy Speaker, expended the US$100,000 among the Nationwide Tour Committee members, while others said the US$100,000 was divided among senior staff of NOCAL and the House's leadership as extra per diem.