Government has launched a public register of petroleum contracts, agreements, authorisations and permits in a bid to enhance transparency and accountability in the upstream oil and gas sector.
The register, which was curated by senior staff of the Petroleum Commission, is hosted via a web portal and presently contains 17 agreements signed between the government of Ghana and multinational oil companies.
The ExxonMobil contract, which has become a matter of public debate in recent times, was however missing from the list of published agreements.
According to the Deputy Minister of Energy in charge of Petroleum, Dr. Mohammed Amin Adam, exclusion of the ExxonMobil contract was as a result of the ongoing process to ratify the deal in parliament.
He assured Ghanaians that once the contract is ratified, full details of the agreement and in-depth information will be available for public consumption.
“Some have asked why the ExxonMobil contract is not on the register. It is important we understand that that contract is not effective. It has to be ratified by parliament. So, we understand the eagerness of people to see that contract – and we should not be worried.
“Just as we have published all 17 contracts, we will equally put it out for Ghanaians to see what we have negotiated,” he said.
Dr. Amin Adam said that publication of the register has enormous benefits for civil society, investors and Ghanaians as a whole.
He explained that this is a major step toward entrenching the position of transparency and accountability in a sector that is now a major contributor to GDP and economic growth.
He said that through the register Ghanaians will have full disclosure of petroleum agreements, permits, certificates, authorisations, approvals and consent, to help them demand accountability.
“It will ensure the effective utilisation of Ghana’s petroleum resources. It provides civil society organisations and citizens alike a single point or platform, when you talk about upstream activities, to demand accountability of government,” he said.
For investors, Amin Adam said: “It will serve as a significant guide to investors, and they will get to learn the state of exploration activities, petroleum blocs available, and funding opportunities”.
He added that government itself will also use it as a source of information for monitoring petroleum activities in the country.
Dr. Amin Adam charged the Petroleum Commission to continuously update information in the register for the benefit of all stakeholders, and also address concerns and feedback from users to improve accessibility to the information available.
Civil Society advocacy
Civil Society organisations in the extractives sector, in recent times, have expressed concern over the lack of information on contracts in the upstream oil sector – a trend they say is worrying.
The Institute of Economic Affairs, in its 2017 Petroleum Transparency and Accountability report (P-TRAC), found that Contract Transparency was significantly low in the sector – and hence called for passage of the Right to Information Law to help citizens demand such information from government.
The report showed a trend of the economy being dependent on the oil sector for growth – hence the need for proper scrutiny and structures to curb incidents of corruption.
Dr. Steve Manteaw, Co-Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), also complained about lack of public information about the ExxonMobil deal – which he claims is unlawful.
He demanded full disclosure of the agreement and called on government to be “cautiously optimistic”.
Speaking on behalf the Energy Minster, Dr. Amin Adam assured civil society organisations of government’s continuous will to maintain and improve transparency in the upstream oil sector to ensure better accountability.
He said Ghana has been committed to the Extractive Industry and Transparency Initiative since 2003, and had chalked up some remarkable achievements to illustrate and validate its efforts.
“In February 2016, the Ghana Extractive Transparency Initiative received an award for helping to turn policy recommendations into actionable reforms at the just-ended EITI global conference.
“Additionally, Ghana’s oil and gas sector scored a satisfactory sixty-seven out of a hundred points, according to the 2017 Resource Governance Index by the National Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) – making Ghana No. 1 within sub-Saharan Africa in terms of transparency in the oil and gas sector and governance reforms generally.”