Make draft bill on oil revenue public, Monday, March 22, 2010 (pg 32)

A Coalition of civil society organisations has called on the government to make the draft Petroleum Revenue Management Bill public now, just as it did in the case of the Local Content Policy.
The coalition, made up of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Ghana, the Ghana Research and Advocacy Organisations Network, Coalition on Human Rights Oil and Gas, and the Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment (KITE), said the publication of the document would ensure that Ghanaians contributed effectively to the ongoing discussions and consultations on the bill.
Addressing a press conference in Accra last Thursday, the PWYP National Oil and Gas Co-ordinator, Mr Mohammed Amin Adam, said although a draft policy on petroleum revenue management had been developed, the inability of the government to publish or circulate the document for public scrutiny to encourage people to make informed contributions during consultations made the ongoing consultations speculative without any strong foundation.
Mr Adam noted that the coalition acknowledged that managing revenue generated from oil was a complex issue that required in-depth knowledge and skills to enable people to participate effectively and meaningfully.
“The Government so far has been economical with the release of relevant information on the proposal for petroleum revenue management, which, in our view, compromise the quality of on-going consultations,” he said.
He pointed out that for the country to ensure prudent and sustainable management of these revenues, there was the need for strong, independent institutions and a sound legal framework, adding that “this will also serve public interest, as well as prevent corruption and the mismanagement of oil revenue”.
He noted that while civil society groups commended the government’s commitment to promoting transparency and managing expected oil revenue for the benefit of all Ghanaians, they also had serious concerns which must be addressed to help enrich the on-going consultations.
He urged the President not to renege on his promise to publish all documents on the petroleum sector as the country had subscribed to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Mr Adam wondered why the government published the draft Local Content and Local Participation Policy before the start of the road shows but had failed to do the same for the draft Ghana Petroleum Revenue Management.
He observed that the on-going discussions did not address transparency and accountability issues, explaining that “the focus so far has been on how and what to spend expected revenues but other critical governance issues have not been featured in the current discussions”.
He said the coalition was interested in finding answers to questions, including whether there would be an oil fund, how independent the board of the fund would be, whether appointment to the board would need parliamentary approval, what rules would govern deposit into and withdrawing from the fund, and whether the bill would incorporate the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.
Mr Adam called for the extension of the forums on Local Content Provisions being held in six districts in the Western Region to other parts of the country to ensure national consensus since, according to him, the petroleum value chain was beyond the upstream level.
The coalition called for the creation of an independent regulatory body by an act of Parliament for the petroleum sector, which should be autonomous from the Ghana National Petroleum Company, to ensure that issues concerning conflict of interest did not arise as the GNPC, which currently serves as an advisor to the Ministry of Energy, had commercial interest in the oil sector and was likely to influence qualifications for exploration licensing.
Dr Steve Manteaw, Convener of the PWYP, in his remarks, said a national consensus on the oil industry would help determine how much oil should be extracted now before the country built the capacity of national institutions to take over.
“The petroleum sector is too important to be left to the government alone, that is why it should be opened up and issues laid on the table for discussion,” he said.
The Director of the KITE, Mr Ismael Agyekumhene, stated that it was important to take steps that would ensure that the voice of Ghanaians were heard on how the oil revenue would be used to prevent social exclusion, which was partly the root cause of the Niger Delta conflicts in Nigeria.

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