Friday, April 16, 2021

Legislators critical of the Petroleum Commission Bill

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The members of the joint committee on PEC and Environment, on Monday 19th October 2020, have raised critical issues on the bill entitled Petroleum Commission Bill 2020, at the legislative house, during a multi sectorial interface on the bill.

The exercise brought together officials from Petroleum, Justice and Finance Ministries and the select committee on the joint committee on Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) and Environment.

Committee Members during the exercise, raised issues such as the qualification of the Director General of the commission, to ensure that a competent qualified person is given the position to handle, what could be done in the event that the commission needs huge money for major investments, adding that the bill on the annual estimates of the commission states that ‘no expenditure shall be made out of the funds of the commission unless it has been approved by the board  in the budget’, as appropriation of supplementary estimates may take time and can potentially handicap the continuous operation of the commission.

Officials of the Petroleum Ministry

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Officials of the Petroleum Ministry responded that the Personnel Management Office, Public Service Commission and the Commission’s Board and where applicable the Labor Act, have developed a comprehensive service rules and these are the instruments that guide the development of the service rules in practice.

The officials further stated that the qualifications most of the times, it is not practise to indicate the qualifications in the Act, adding that there is no flexibility and may lead to a scenario wherein one cannot have such relevant qualifications that are indicated in the Act even though that person is qualified.

The officials added: “So administratively and operationally what is done is that the board prepares the term of reference of the individual and the required qualifications. So we give the general description and once the person is identified, his or her qualifications will be narrowed down to the terms of reference, which would specify the actual qualifications”.

On what could be done if the commission needs money for major investments, officials responded that the monies are given to the public enterprises by the government and appropriated by the national assembly as in the Public enterprise law.

On the budget expenditure of the commission, the officials clarified that in the event that something comes up, their budget (Petroleum Ministry) can be reviewed and they don’t have to come to the National Assembly to do that.

On what are the sources of revenue for the commission in the performance of its function, officials stated that the commission issues licenses for data and petroleum licenses and that the commission is envisaged to enter some geophysical services agreement on multi-client basis, consequent to which there would be certain monies that would be accrued to the commission, as well as granting of certain permits, all of which generate monies for the commission.

Officials of the Finance Ministry assured the Petroleum Ministry that they will give the commission its financial autonomy, but where necessary, will set in to bail the Petroleum Ministry out when there are some financial challenges.

Officials of the Justice Ministry explicated that the commission’s board is responsible for decision making for the commission to act with other bodies within the commission that implement the activities, which cannot be detached separately from one and other.

Halifa Sallah, co-Chair of the Joint Committee, said the exercise is stipulated in the standing Orders of the Assembly, which provide bills to go through stages, scrutinize the details and clauses of the bill with the view to come up with a strong recommendations and where necessary, to amend clauses, with the final product as the joint agreement on any amendment to the clauses, between the joint committee and the mover of the bill (Petroleum Ministry), that could be proposed to the whole assembly in the efforts to pass the bill to become law.

Sitting continues tomorrow at the National Assembly at 11: am prompt.

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