Monrovia: The House of Representatives in its 2nd session of the 2nd sitting of the 54th National Legislature Tuesday voted unanimously to review concessions and agreements passed and ratified by that august body.
Plenary through the House Speaker Bhofal Chambers set up a 16 man specialized committee to probe the matter which also takes into consideration deliverables, corporate social responsibilities as enshrined in the various contracts and report in six (6) weeks.
Speaker Chambers named Lofa County Representatives Clarence Massaquoi as chair and Monstserrado County Representative Acarous Moses Gray as co-chair. Other members of the committee include Rep. Munah Youngblood, Rep. Thomas Fallah, Dixon Seboe, Roustlyn Dennis of Montserrado County. Rep. Rosana Schaack, Rep. Zoe Pennue, Rep. Edward Karffiah, Rep. Telboresa Tarponweh, Julie Weah, Rep. Matthew Zarzar, Rep. Edwin Snowe and Rep. Kaine Wesso of Rivercess, Grand Gedeh, Bong Lofa, Sinoe, Bomi and Gbarpolu Counties respectively.
Plenary’s actions were triggered by a communication from Lofa County Representative Clarence Massaquoi craving Plenary’s indulgence to review Concessions and Agreements signed and ratified by the House in order to ensure Compliance which he said would inform the government revenue generation plan.
“Honorable Speaker and Colleagues, it is an open knowledge that our current economic status as a country is challenged and need the selfless inputs of all stakeholders to revive it and rekindle the hope of our people. You will agree with me that the implementation of these instruments has a significant impact on the viability of the economy. In view of the above, I crave the indulgence of the Honorable House of Representatives to institute a process to review all Concession Agreements and Investment Incentives”, the letter noted.
It was also agreed through a motion by Margibi County Representative Edward Karfiah that the committee be supported financially to ensure the smooth revision of Concessions across the country
“Giving the overemphasizing need for growth of the economy and the role played by these Concessions and Agreements in revenue generation, a specialized committee be set up to delve into a comprehensive Compliance Revision and report to Plenary in six (6)weeks to ascertain issues relating to their responsibilities”.
But Nimba County Lawmaker Larry Nyonquoi argued that the House’s decision might be in error owing to the Constitution granting the executive branch the right execute said function of reviewing Agreements and Concessions passed by the Legislature,
“The only thing we should do is to communicate with the Chief Executive (Pres. Weah) to ensure an audit and revision is conducted in keeping with the contracts and the constitution of Liberia but we are in error and it might fall back on us”, Rep. Nyonquoi stated.
But scores of Lawmakers including Montserrado County Representative Acarous Gray maintained that the constitution also backs the Legislature in relation to one of its three cardinal functions which is oversight,
“we approved those agreements and contracts if we want to review them is no error because the constitution protects us to exercise our powers of oversight in these cases”, Rep. Gray noted.
During Open session there were commendations made to Hon Massaquoi for flagging such travois issue as some lawmakers expressed interest due to the trigger down nature of the matter. Every County in Liberia has a Concession or Investment Incentives of which many Liberian citizens have complained over the poor operations of most the concession companies.
There have been series of riot and bloodshed over concession companies adhering to the terms and conditions within the agreement signed or ratified by the Liberian government. Several incidents including the Butaw riot, Sime Darby Plantation shutdown and the Mittal Steel protests point to actions by citizens over the refusal of companies to deliver on their responsibilities.
Most agreements and Contracts signed and ratify cover a 25 year period of investment or more with an every 5 or 10 years revision process; while most responsibilities by those agreements are based on the needs of the communities and country, largely on roads, schools, healthcare and job creation. Some of the agreements include Firestone Rubber Plantation, Sime Darby Oil Palm, Equatorial Oil Palm, SIFCA, , Salala Rubber Plantation among others.
Tuesday’s session witnessed the expression of dissatisfaction of several Lawmakers over the denial of Concessionaires to ensure Liberians benefit from services relating to the agreements
“It is time that we act on our Legislative powers to redeem our people from this economic nightmare because every county in here is affected”, Nimba County Representative Samuel G. Kogar.
Montserrado County Representative Dixon Seboe is hopeful that at the end of the revision and compliance audit, the outcome will present is brighter face for higher revenue generation for government
“the numbers will increase budget by 25% on the average especially those on the duty-free tax expenditures because most of these people bring everything from outside the country even with those ones that could be bought in Liberia which has a rambling effect on our economy”.