By Josephine Saidu, SLEITI Communications Officer
A six-man SLEITI delegation which is in Monrovia, Liberia on a peer-to-peer learning has on Tuesday 27th May acquainted themselves with key policy makers of the Liberian government. The aim of the meetings was to understand how the prevailing political environment can impact the success or failure of a country’s EITI process.
The team’s first port of call was at the Office of the Liberian Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Alex Tyler who welcomed the SLEITI team to Liberia and specifically to the Capital Building which hosts the House of Representatives and the Senate.
In his brief on the Liberia legislative system, the Speaker said theirs is that of the United States of America and are presently practicing the republican form of government with three core coordinate branches. He added that they have 103 members in the two Chambers of which 73 are from the House of Representatives and 30 from the Senate representing the 15 counties in Liberia.
The Speaker informed the visiting team that the establishment of LEITI was challenged with lots of hurdles at its initial stage because it was seen as a new phenomenon. But as a government that has concern for its people and is committed to reforms, they saw it necessary to hold discussions and negotiate on what benefit the government and the people could derive from the process. He said over the years, Liberia has relied on mining, especially iron ore, and this was regulated by the Ministry of Lands and Mines and for the concession and taxes, the Ministry of Finance.
Hon. Tyler noted that the introduction of the EITI in Liberia was critical and important to look at the objectives of the global initiative to measure how it will help the government and the people, given the fact that the resources are slated for the people and they should derive its maximum benefits.
The Speaker pointed out that the enactment of the LEITI Act is the 52nd legislature in Liberia to ensure that there is a separate body to monitor and evaluate all payments by companies in order to ensure compliance with the LEITI law to enable government derives its required benefit for the entire populace. He maintained that since the establishment of LEITI, the team has enjoyed the autonomy entrusted to them and they have been working without interference from any of the entities.
All that is required of them is to update the three arms of government on a quarterly basis on their activities, thus far LEITI has lived up to the task and is now influencing policy decision makers and contributing to wider reforms. The Speaker expressed appreciation for the role LEITI has played to assist in providing oversight on the budget, which is more or less the work of the legislature. He encouraged the team to be more proactive in implementing the EITI in order to help the government derive maximum benefit from it.
The House of Representative on the Committee on Mines, Hon. Richard Matenokay Tingba, said the issue of transparency in the extractive sector is key as there is no way a country can have a resource title without being industrialized. He pointed out that the ultimate utilization of resources is pivotal to national development, adding that a country needs to establish a framework to ensure transparency and accountability.
He went on to say that this was the basis on which LEITI was established and that they are pleased with LEITI’s output as they have not only ensured compliance with the EITI but also influenced policy decisions that have contributed greatly to wider reforms in Liberia. The country, he concluded, is still considered as underdeveloped and that relied greatly on the extractive sector to contribute immensely to a country’s GDP.
At the Office of the President of the Liberian Senate, Senate Pro-Tempore Gbehzongar Findley – who is also the International EITI Africa Region 1 Representative, the team was received by the Senate President who extended warm greetings to all present. He said the core objective of the initiative is to track revenues and in tracking these revenues it should be made clear to the general public. The process, he said, is critical and is filled with pressure from every corner and that its tripartite arrangement made it unique.
The Senate Pro-Tempore said that with the new EITI Standards, the Liberian government is expecting LEITI to be producing reports that will attract investors. He advised the SLEITI delegation to hastily legislate the EITI in Sierra Leone to ensure its independence and also to enable the initiative derive its maximum benefits.
The Senator stated that the EITI should build institutions and contribute to wider reforms that will foster development. He encouraged the government of Sierra Leone to place more importance on the EITI and ensure that every constituent is represented by law on the Multi-Stakeholder Group.
In her contribution, Cecilia Mattia of the National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE) thanked the Senate President for his advice. She informed him that a draft SLEITI Bill is in its advanced stage and it is presently with civil society orgainsations who are holding consultations with stakeholders thereby giving them the opportunity to make an input before it is taken to Cabinet and later to Parliament.
Adding her voice to the discussions, the Acting Head of the SLEITI Secretariat, Mina Horace, said it is indeed necessary for the EITI to build institutions as it might not be in existence forever and these institutions, when properly constituted, will help countries with their development agenda.
Sierra Leone, she noted, has made strides in its development agenda by establishing institutions like the National Minerals Agency, which regulates the mineral sector and the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates all environmental issues.
Madam Horace added that the government has also established an online system wherein data on taxes and revenue can be provided for public consumption.