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Several days after the Liberian Senate concurred with the House of Representatives to ratify four oil contracts, there are claims that some huge amounts were 'dished' out to members of the national legislature as a form of 'inducement' that resulted to the signing and concurrence of four of the country's off-shores oil blocks.
When this issue was raised on a number of radio talk shows recently, members of the Legislature declined to comment, with some arguing that they were concentrating on the just ended special senatorial elections.
Sources in government speaking on condition of anonymity confided in this paper that members of the Legislature allegedly received money from the Executive Branch to ensure that the four off-shore oil blocks were signed and concurred without impediments. True to the word of our sources, the senate concurred with the House of Representatives to ratify the production sharing contract between Liberia and the four oil companies.
The four oil blocks in question are blocks 6, 7, 16 and 17. TGS Nopec, which conducted the bid rounds in London, England, hired an international auditing and consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) also based in London to do the evaluation of all the bidders. In the end, Liberty Petroleum Corporation, an international oil company from Phoenix, Arizona became the contractor for LB-16, whilst Pillar Oil Limited of Nigeria and the New Millennium Oil & Gas, a firm said to have Liberian partnership were given offshore oil blocks LB16 and 17 respectively.
According to information, TGS Nopec is the custodian of Liberia's 3 dimensional survey/data and that international oil companies interested in any of the data would purchase same from TGS Nopec at the cost of US$15 million per off-shore oil block. Out of the purchase, Liberia got one fourth of the cost of the purchase.
Our sources said this arrangement remained in force until the GOL has completely settled its indebtedness to TGS Nopec. Rightly so, the Liberian government has completely settled its indebtedness with TGS Nopec reversing the arrangement to GOL, and ensuring that the GOL now receives three fourth of the purchase of 3-D survey data per oil block while TGS Nopec gets one fourth of the purchase.
Our sources in government also revealed that the GOL reportedly received US$42 million from the sale of off-shore oil blocks with a signature bonus of US$10.5.M was given. The company purchasing block 16 is Liberty oil from the United States, which also purchased 3-D data of block 16 from TGS Nopec for US$15M. Out of the sale from the new arrangement being put into place, Liberia received US$10.5M as its share of the purchase.
Information made available indicated that if the total of US$42 million added to the coast of sale plus the cost of the 3-D survey, the amount would be a staggering US$63 million. Out of the signature bonus of US$10.5 million, the GOL is alleged to have bribed the legislature approximately US$3.4 million. Out of this figure, (as it is routinely done), the booty is usually shared two thirds for the House of Representatives and one third for the Senate.
The House reportedly received US$2.3 million while the Senate received US$1.15 million. The amounts paid to the House and Senate respectively were direct deposit into the accounts of both houses. According to our sources, unlike the Senate, the House of Representatives made a bulk check to their account at the Central Bank of Liberia and paid members of the House of Representatives in cash with each receiving US$29,000 while the leadership of the House allegedly shared US$183,000.
Our sources said if this development unfolds to the public, the government would argue that the money received by the national legislature was amounts due for their three months extension. However, sources say a strategy has been designed by the legislature to inform the public that due to the current financial difficulties it decided to take only US$10,000 for their three months extension.
Interestingly, last Thursday, the issue of members of the Legislature allegedly receiving money as “lobbying fees” to sign and ratified the four off-shore oil blocks was a subject of discussion on social media (facebook). A check posed on facebook by George K. Fahnbulleh, claimed that each lawmaker received $31,000.00 “lobbying fees” for the sale of four oil blocks in Liberia. The check in question was put in the name of Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson, dated December 18, 2014.
To date members of the national legislature and the Liberian government have remained mute on the development. Some lawmakers when contacted to comment on the issue declined on grounds that they were concentrating on the special senatorial election.
This is not the first time members of the legislature have been accused of bribery. Last year, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) opened investigation into claims that the former Board Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Clemenceau B. Urey, Sr., allegedly bribed some lawmakers to ratify oil contracts.
Early this year, Mr. Urey admitted before the Joint Legislative Public Account Committee (PAC) that he bribed or approved the payment of US$50,000 to lawmakers before ratifying oil contracts intended to benefit the country and its people.
Mr. Urey, who was invited by the lawmakers to give account for money spent under his stewardship, however, told the lawmakers that he was not informed by his colleagues that they gave them (lawmakers) additional money which amounted to US$118,000 as “lobby fees”.
In the report of the General Auditing Commission(GAC) dated 2006/08/09 on NOCAL, the commission said among other things that there were several irregularities, including lobby fees that were paid by NOCAL to lawmakers as inducement to pass several contracts. But the former NOCAL Board Chairman had maintained that he took the action in “national interest” and not for himself.