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PWYP: Heads lock over Uganda’s oil agreements again

$s Published: 3 years, 3 months and 5 days ago. Tagged in Access To Information, EITI, oil, Uganda

Source: Publish What You Pay

Author: Esther Nakkaz

Date: 16th August 2011

The Uganda government is at loggerheads with Civil Society Organisations again over making public of the oil agreements.

Civil society insists the agreements should be made public to ensure transparency in the sector. The government, however, insists this has not been done anywhere in the world.

“We should have a dialogue and debate the merits and demerits of doing this because it is not done by many oil companies around the world,” said Mr Ernest Rubondo, the commissioner for Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD) at the Ministry of Energy.

Uganda has instead applied to join the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI), a global standards setter to institute transparency in the sector.

The government is trying to justify its non-disclosure of PSAs comparing with only three countries that have their agreements in the public domain out of the 100 oil /gas exploration and production countries around the world.

They say in the event that the agreements are made public, civil society would be speechless as they are some of the best deals Uganda has ever signed.

Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) between oil operators and the Uganda government for the Albert basin with 1 billion barrels of proven reserves so far and a potential of a further 1.5 billion barrels have forever been kept secret.

“We agree that there has been no traditional disclosure of production sharing agreements but we have now entered an era where they do it,” said Mr Dickens Kamugisha the chief executive officer from Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

“Why should they put a lot of vigour in this country and not in their own countries? After all a lot information in the PSAs is taken care of in the oil laws,” said Mr Rubondo.

Civil society officials from Publish What You Pay, a global network of non-profits united in transparency for oil said developed countries already have high standards of management, accountability, responsibility and institutional oversight.

Moreover, a well-developed private sector and adequate freedom of speech leave almost no chance for dubious transactions on behalf of the state.

On the other hand, Uganda with her weak institutions, lacks this immunity and it needs transparency, they claimed.

“Having access to PSAs in Uganda is a matter of urgency. Transparency is needed primarily in developing countries like Uganda and this will do more good than harm to the industry,” said Ms Winfred Ngabiirwe, the chairperson Publish What You Pay.

For Uganda to compare herself with developed countries, which have systems, is to wink to a blind man in the dark.

“They can survive but for us we have to mobilise the public to demand for transparency,” said Mr Kamugisha.

“I don’t think Uganda civil society is confused about it – the reason they want to see the contracts is because they are not convinced the government will use the money to benefit ordinary citizens unless there is total transparency,” said Mr Joe Powell UK policy analyst and coalition member at ONE-a grassroots advocacy organisation.

The civil society activists also doubt Uganda’s commitment towards joining the EITI. About 25 African countries with extractive industries are candidates to EITI.

The activists say this is a clear demonstration that contract transparency is being embraced world over and especially on the African continent.

“For a long time now, the government has promised to adopt and implement the EITI but it has only been said not done. We can only hope that finally, they will walk the talk,” said Ms Ngabiirwe.