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Ghana’s oil sector needs more transparency – Speakers at New Year School

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Speakers at a symposium on ensuring transparency in oil and gas revenue management have stated that though Ghana has made some strides in ensuring transparency in the sector, there are still challenges to be addressed.

The speakers were the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy, Mr Moses Asaga; the Executive Director of IMANI, Ghana, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Ransford Tetteh.

In his presentation at the ongoing 63rd New Year School, Mr Asaga gave an encouraging brief on how legislation regulating the oil sector, particularly the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (Act 815), was passed.

He emphasised the fact that several amendments had been proposed by the Minority in Parliament which had been accepted and incorporated into the bills in good faith.

He said the country had incorporated transparency clauses into the laws from the onset, a development he said was unprecedented, as other oil producing countries such as Norway had only done so after several years of oil production.

Some of the transparency clauses were the detailed accounting of production to the government, the publication of oil revenues and the creation of a website by the Ministry of Finance for the publication of volumes of production and pricing, he said.

Mr Cudjoe, in his presentation, pointed out that ensuring transparency in oil and gas revenue management was dependent on democracy, transparency and the effectiveness of public institutions that were responsive to citizens.

“Although Ghana is politically stable, the Executive, often backed by an unimpressive Majority in Parliament, is capable of altering the configurations of prudent economic management,” he said.

Raising specific issues with the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill, he said amendments negotiated by the government during its passage to use petroleum reserves for infrastructural development would not have caused any problems if politicians could be trusted to do the right thing and not saddle future generations with debts.

He said similar excuses proffered in the past for gold had left the country with only three per cent of the profits declared even at the peak of market prices for gold on the world market.

Mr Cudjoe mentioned research by Revenue Watch which showed that the act made it possible for investments by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) not to be questioned by Parliament.

Other gaps in ensuring transparency were vague provisions in the act which allowed five per cent local content participation in oil fields development and production, as it did not specify in the strictest sense what the nationalities of the developers should be.

Mr Tetteh, for his part, described as worrying the fact that the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) was yet to be passed.

He said since oil and gas were public resources being managed by a few public officials with wide discretionary powers, it was the role of the media to scrutinise negotiations and ensure that they were made public.

He showed how the media, by their work, could help citizens demand accountability from public officials by the publication of issues and the highlighting of information.

He said the media’s role in promoting citizen’s activism was critical in ensuring that the oil sector was managed in a transparent manner and urged operators not to hide behind the sensitive and technical nature of the sector to deny the public information.

Mr Tetteh challenged all involved in the business of oil to be ready to submit to the scrutiny of oversight organisations and the media.

Source: Daily Graphic

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