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Governance

  • Image: Citizens try to enter parliament

    Bishop, MPs, prise parliament’s doors open to the public

    Police direct citizens to another entrance to parliament, where they must wait to see if they will be allowed to enter. (Photo: NY)

    As MPs gathered in Uganda’s parliament this afternoon to debate a bill that will structure and regulate the oil sector, police on the gates were busily refusing entry to activists who wanted to the watch the debate from the public gallery—until rescue for the citizens’ rights came from the intervention of a prominent cleric.

    Shortly before 2 pm Oil in Uganda  found a despondent huddle of barred activists at the parliamentary gate.  According to Henry Bazira, chairperson of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas, police had told them the public gallery was “full.” Read More

  • Image: ActionDealyed

    Showdown looms as government moves to reclaim power over oil

    Ugandan NGOs shut down in protest at government corruption on the same day that parliament voted to curtalil ministerial power over oil. But Mr. Museveni has bounced back with deals to keep his parliamentary troops in line. (Photo: NY)

    A controversial clause in Uganda’s Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill, which was amended during a parliamentary debate two weeks ago in such a way as to limit ministerial powers, has been re-introduced at the eleventh hour and will again be debated on Tuesday, November 27, after intense efforts by the ruling party to quell potential rebellion in its own ranks.

    A National Resistance Movement caucus meeting held today (November 26) was widely seen as an attempt to railroad Movement MPs into supporting the original version of the bill, while civil society activists held their own press conference and issued statements denouncing the effort to overturn the earlier amendment. Read More

  • Image: Open Oil contracts book

    ‘Booksprint’ sets out to throw light on oil contracts

    Written by a global team for a global readership

    A book published this month by the Berlin-based Open Oil consultancy group aims to shine a light on the production sharing contracts—known in Uganda as production sharing agreements (PSAs)—that lie at the heart of the multi-trillion dollar global oil industry.

    “Contract transparency is the next stage of the transparency movement” writes Open Oil founder, Johnny West, in a foreword to the book, which can be downloaded free of charge from the Open Oil website.  Part of Mr. West’s foreword is re-published below. Read More

  • Image: cartoon

    It’s all about money! Ten key questions on oil revenue

    Everybody knows that oil is all about money for the companies, the contractors, the government, the speculators rushing to buy up land in Bunyoro . . .  But if we re-phrase that thought as “It’s all about economics”  it suddenly seems complicated and remote—something that non-economists struggle to understand.   Yet, with parliament currently considering a Public Finance Bill that will make key decisions on oil revenue management, much wider public debate is needed over how Uganda’s share of the money should be spent and invested.  The 3rd issue of Oil in Uganda’s quarterly, print newsletter, which is now rolling off the presses, tries to demystify the economics as a contribution to the debate.  Here we re-publish one of the main articles from the newsletter, UGANDA’S OIL REVENUES:  TEN KEY QUESTIONS Read More

  • Image: Angelo Izama

    Battle over national oil company reveals strains of the sector

    By Angelo Izama

    Angelo Izama

    During the oil debate in November 2011, parliament was piqued by an incident in which a letter written to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in defense of Tullow Oil was presented on the floor by the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi before Kadaga could open hers. The sense that government and the oil companies are locked in a tight embrace, working hand in glove, explains the attitude of mistrust that ordinary MPs now feel.

    In the last seven days, battle lines have been drawn. In a rather bizarre commentary made on the distance ordinary Ugandans feel from the process, an NGO alliance led by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment invited all of Uganda’s 370 MPs  to the lakeside resort of Munyonyo to debate amendments to the country’s proposed oil bills. Read More

  • Image: Professor Jenik Radon

    “You have to go slow in order to go fast”

    Professor Jenik Radon

    Uganda should move carefully and without haste to develop its oil industry and wider economy.  Well crafted laws, with institutional checks and balances, are essential to govern the commercial aspects.  Revenues should be deposited overseas in hard currency accounts, with a portion saved for the future—because development cannot take place overnight, it needs to phased. Increased government spending should be tied to a comprehensive development plan.   Environmental, health and safety issues should be governed by regional laws that bind international oil companies to the same standards they would have to apply in their countries of incorporation—because otherwise they ‘won’t take it seriously.’

    So says Columbia University professor, scholar-activist and renowned extractives industries expert, Jenik Radon, who has been delivering a series of lectures at Makerere University.  Oil in Uganda caught up with him as he packed his bags to return to storm-buffeted New York City. Read More

  • Last minute scramble to salvage Petroleum Bills

    More than 140 Ugandan members of parliament gathered in the Munyonyo Speke Resort today to ‘harmonise’ their positions ahead of the expected parliamentary debate next week on the two Petroleum Bills that were tabled in February.

    The event was convened by the Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG) which has criticised the draft laws more strongly than the Natural Resources Committee recommendations published last month.

    PFOG, in common with many civil society groups, is calling for more limits on executive power and for stronger environmental and transparency provisions. Read More

  • Image: Dr. Ezra Suruma

    “Oil revenues should be used to make a more humane society”

    Ezra Suruma, a former Minister of Finance, appeals for universal medical insurance and retirement pensions

    Uganda should deploy oil revenues to create universal old age pensions and universal health insurance to make a more humane society. This would be a real investment in the future of the nation.  So says Dr. Ezra Suruma, Uganda’s former Minister of Finance, in this exclusive interview with Oil in Uganda.  He accepts that it will be prudent to place some of the revenues in an Investment Fund—because too much money flowing too fast into the general budget would be difficult to absorb. But, he argues, all Ugandan citizens should become individual shareholders in the Investment Fund, in order to ensure that each and every citizen benefits directly through annual dividends—and also to create citizen-shareholder pressure for transparent and corruption-free management of the funds.  Read More

  • Committee report on oil leaves Minister’s powers intact

    International groups and Ugandan civil society activists have expressed disappointment with a long awaited Natural Resources Committee report that was finally tabled in parliament last Thursday.

    For the last seven months the committee has held extensive public and private consultations on two petroleum bills to regulate the development of Uganda’s oil industry.  The draft bills, prepared by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, were strongly criticised by civic groups for giving too much power to the Minister responsible for oil, with relatively little parliamentary oversight.

    The committee’s report, a copy of which Oil in Uganda has seen, does not propose to trim the powers of the Minister, however.  It recommends the introduction of several clauses to ensure the involvement of parliament and cabinet in decision making processes, but the minister still remains supreme. Read More

  • Pie chart: Ghana mining revenues (2009)

    Ghana: taking revenue transparency seriously

    Source: Ghana EITI aggregated report, 2009. EITI yearly reports give detailed information on revenue flows to government, broken down by company, sector, type and destination of receipts.

    In a fifth report from Ghana, Oil in Uganda staff writer, Chris Musiime, describes the country’s efforts to institutionalise transparency in the handling of revenues from oil and mining industries.

    Mismanagement of revenues from the extraction of natural resources is widely cited as a major factor leading to the much-feared “resource curse”—the paradox that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to have slower economic growth and, in many cases, more instability, than their less endowed counterparts.

    To avoid this, Ghana joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2003, as a way of tracking revenues from its minerals trade, eventually extending the practice to the oil and gas industry in 2010. Read More