The Committee in its 2014 report on the oil and gas sector, therefore, called for the establishment of an online repository or information website to provide adequate information to the public on the activities of the sector.

Petroleum
Petroleum
Some of the information needed to be published or made available to the public includes; oil blocks contracts awarded, licensing and timelines of specific activities on the upstream sector players, as well as the revenue management.

After five years of upstream petroleum (oil and gas) production, there is no any available platform or means that allow the general public to access information on the activities of the sector.

This has been described by some energy experts and anti-corruption bodies as a deliberate attempt to usurp or hide essential information from the public.

The Founding President of IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe wants government to publish all oil block contracts to ensure adequate transparency and accountability.
“Most importantly, government should publish all these contracts so we can all make positive contributions and remove the elements of surprise. It makes no good reading suspicions in the international media about your country’s energy deals when we can avoid them altogether by first accounting to us locally. Government should make us prouder defending them internationally by giving us the tools of non-negotiable transparency,” Mr Cudjoe said when speaking at the 5th IMANI Inspirational Public Sector Leadership Awards recently in Accra.

At a two-day training workshop for financial and economic journalists organized by Institute of Financial and Economic Journalist in collaboration with GIZ, the Aggregator and lead consultant of Boas and Associate, Kweku Boa-Amponsem, explaining some of the findings and recommendations captured in the 2014 GHEITI report, called for adherence to anti-corruption and transparency standards to ensure compliance to internationally ratified charters.

The report recommended for licensing regime and the publication of contracts. It stated,

‘To ensure transparency and efficient management of the petroleum resources, the Ministry of Petroleum should introduce licensing rounds including bidding and also make available on its website details of contracts with operators.’

Mr. Jon Benjamin, British High Commissioner at the launch of Ghana Oil and Gas for Inclusive Growth (GOGIG) expressed that, the lack of transparency meant that countries often do not benefit as much as they should from their natural resources to fund development and fight poverty.

“Transparency helps, but it is not much use without a well-informed civil society which is a key support to greater accountability for policy decisions, contracts awards, and the use of which revenue from oil is put,” he said.

He called on civil society to ask the difficult questions about the governance of the natural resources, such as awards of contracts and the lifestyle of officials tasked with the management of the natural resources.

He added, “Whiles laws are important, they are not enough when left unimplemented.”

However, the Minister of Petroleum, Emmanuel K. Buah has disputed allegations that, the government is not ensuring transparency in the petroleum industry.
He explained that, apart from the numerous policies and mechanisms already put in place to ensure transparency in the sector, the ministry also plans to develop a Gas Policy and Gas Act, after cabinet approves the plan, to provide a transparent regulatory framework for the industry.

Stephen Yeboah, a lecturer at the Department of Planning at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, has previously advised that, the country should not be obsessed with the notion of ‘fairly distributing oil revenues to all Ghanaians’ when the framework to ensure the equitable oil revenue distribution does not exist. It is interesting to know that the major issues behind the failures of resource-rich developing countries all boil down to “corruption”. If corruption is the yardstick to be used to assess the severity of “Resource Curse”, then definitely Ghana is not so exceptional to elude the grips of the “Devil’s Excrement”. It is against the backdrop of the upsurge of corruption in resource-rich countries especially in the developing world, that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was launched in September 2002 to encourage oil and gas companies to publish the payments they make to the governments of countries in which they operate.

Mr. Yeboah expressed that, though Ghana is a ‘candidate’ of the EITI and as such published reports which cover payments and revenues in the mining industry in 2004 and 2005, the essence of transparency has practically been a mocking mirage. This is evidenced in the transparency initiative in the mining industry that has comprehensively been inadequate and asymmetrical simply because some invisible hands are in secrecy siphoning mineral revenues that accrue to the country especially with royalties. The “Paradox of Plenty” continues to assume sophisticated heights and from bad to worse is the grim picture that has clouded the equitable distribution of revenues in the mining industry. What becomes of the fate of a country that cannot even curtail the growing misfortunes of spoliation in the mining industry?

He expects that, Ghana should rise up and place high priorities on the working principles of the EITI in avoiding similar fate in the country. The EITI has come at such an opportune moment for the country, we need to pay attention to every detail of the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) and be made to cover other sectors of the economy.

Mr. Yeboah has noted that, “A major step towards ensuring the optimum benefits of oil is the commitment to enact into law the Freedom of Information Bill which is a major foothold for transparency.

This will go a long way to guarantee the ‘Right to Information’ in Article 21 (1) (f) which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in democratic society”. In addition, the formation of a committee on revenue management made up of government and civil society groups would serve practical expediency with respect to strategic revenue investment and poverty reduction. However, the formation of committee on oil revenue management and creating oil fund alone appears not too strong to break the shackles of the “Resource Curse” and ensure equitable distribution of oil dollars looking at the case in Chad.”

The Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, has also posited that, “Increasing global demand is driving new oil and gas discoveries. Over the next 20 years, it’s expected that 90 per cent of production will come from developing countries. Yet many countries rich in oil and gas are home to some of the world’s poorest people. How can this happen? Too often, wealth stays in the hands of politicians and industry insiders. Revenues don’t get published. Payments made to governments to exploit resources remain secret. Bribery and embezzlement go unchecked.”

It further exposed that, “Many oil and gas companies protect the identities of their equity holders and subsidiaries. This allows corrupt leaders to hide stolen funds unnoticed. Inadequate financial statements make it easy to disguise corrupt deals, and impossible for any of us to monitor them. Many oil and gas companies don’t publish information country by country.

This allows them to hide the royalties, taxes and fees they pay. But without this information, we can’t hold governments to account for the money they receive.
Transparency International believes that, “Stolen oil and gas income has terrible consequences. It benefits an elite few. But for everyone else, it fuels conflict over resources. And it traps people in poverty they’d otherwise avoid”

The Transparency International, however, has advised that, “We need to make sure oil and gas companies go further to prevent corruption. They need to be more detailed in their financial reporting – especially at a country level. Then we can track money and hold governments to account for fees and revenue. Companies should also publish details of their subsidiaries and sites where they work, enabling detailed monitoring. They also need to tell us what they’re doing to prevent corruption, so we can see whether it’s enough.”
The international anti-corruption group wants governments in producer countries also need to be fully open. “They must publish income and royalties.

National oil companies must meet international accounting standards and publish independently audited accounts. Many leading oil and gas companies are based in developed nations. These nations must punish corrupt activity by their companies abroad. They can help prevent it by requiring companies to report on operations in individual countries.”

“We must encourage companies to join sector initiatives to promote transparency. If everyone involved in oil and gas is open about their activities, there’ll be less room for corruption. And more money for development,” the group urged.

Source: Adnan Adams Mohammed

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