18 January 2013

Liberia: Legislature Erred in Ratification of Production Sharing Contracts

House Speaker Alex Tyler has asserted that the 52nd Legislature erred in the ratification of the Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) in the oil and gas sector of Liberia. According to him, the legislature erred because it did not take into consideration the existence of the New Petroleum Law of 2012 during the ratification of PSCS.

But he was quick to point out that the error was discovered based upon a research carried out by the 53rd Legislature. He made these comments on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) regular press briefing held at the Charles Gbenyon Press Hall in Monrovia. During the research, Speaker Tyler further disclosed that the lawmakers also noticed that several key provisions within the New Petroleum Law were not captured in the PSCs.

The House Speaker named the provisions as: the equity to the Government of Liberia(GoL), participation of Liberians and royalty in the sector as some of the major provisions that were not indicated in the PSCs. Listen to him: "Let me state here for the record and this is not intended to indict anyone concerning the PSCs. We at the time did not know that we had a new petroleum law and I think that the Executive shares the same concern.

We went ahead and ratified the PSCs and later on discovered through research that in fact there was a law called the New Petroleum Law and we went back to the contracts. We noticed that a lot of things in the law were not captured into the agreement."

He said the Legislature has notified the Executive branch of government on the need for the re-visitation of the PSCs in order to ascertain the values and responsibilities of these contracts. The Bomi County lawmaker stated that the reviewing process of the country's oil and gas sector by the Legislature is intended to ensure that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) is independent.

He said NOCAL must have a separate function as an oil company of Liberia. Rep. Tyler indicated that the Legislature wants a regulatory agency put in place in order to deal with the oil and gas sector. "What we are currently trying to ensure is the separate function of the oil company. We want NOCAL to stand as an oil company.

If possible, we need a revenue management law. That law would suggests whether we're going to have a revenue management board or the Ministry of Finance. Whatever it is, it would be for us (legislators) and the public to debate. On the issue of the PSCs, we informed the executive that it was important to engage our partners that are currently holding PSCs to re-visit these contracts. Negotiation is ongoing and it is left with the executive to engage them (PSCs holders)," he noted.

Speaker Tyler added: "In 2012, the legislature engaged in a process of reviewing the oil and gas sector. We realized that NOCAL has been performing by the authority given them including the regulatory functions, and setting up policies and guidelines. We taught in our own wisdom that it was important to take a re-look at the sector, monitor, look around the region, consult with colleagues around the region, and see how the sector could confine to best practice," he amongst other things stated.

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