CSOs demand explicit petroleum contracts disclosure provision
Civil society organizations (CSOs), have recommended to the Parliamentary sub-committee on Mines and Energy that explicit provisions on contracts and beneficial ownership disclosure be included in the Petroleum, Exploration and Production Bill.
Mr Samuel Bekoe, Africa Regional Associate of the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NGRI), told the Ghana News Agency that at an earlier consultative meeting, some CSOs emphasised the need for contract and beneficial ownership disclosure.
He mentioned the Africa Centre for Energy Policy, Friends of the Nation and NGRI as some of CSOs who were poised to improve transparency in the oil and gas sector in Ghana.
Mr Bekoe pointed out that the Exploration and Production Bill when passed into law would supersede the current Petroleum Exploration and Production Act, 1984.
“There is not adequate effective transparency across the entire extractive decision chain, especially in the upstream sector, extractive data is still published in locked PDFs and JPEGs and is often quite old by the time it emerges,” he said.
Oil contracts and their supplementary texts are not open to scrutiny, although some have been voluntarily publicised by the government. Licenses are mainly awarded through direct, negotiation without public tender processes, but even when licenses are awarded through competitive tendering processes, evaluation reports go unpublished,” he said.
Mr Bekoe noted that adequate transparency and accountability in the extractive sector is critical to ensure that natural resources are managed effectively to the benefit of citizens.
Expatiating, Mr Bekoe said the current provision did not guarantee a complete publication of all forms of contracts and supplementary texts and could lead to multiple interpretations.
He said the draft bill did not include any provision on disclosure of who the ultimate and true owners of petroleum companies are, which he said promotes illegal actions such as tax evasion, cronyism, and nepotism.
“The complex ownership structures make it difficult to deter and prevent misconduct and crimes committed by extractive companies,” affirming that CSOs would like to see that the bill include provisions for the mandatory disclosure of beneficial ownership of all licensees.”
Mr Bekoe said Ghana’s Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) attempted beneficial ownership disclosure but could not gain adequate information on the true owners who exercise ultimate control of the companies that operate in Ghana.
NRGI has been supporting the EITI multi-stakeholder group to improve on the search and disclosure of beneficial ownership information in its next EITI report, he added, saying if the recommendations are considered by parliament and passed into law, Ghana could become a model for other countries in the region to follow.