Civil society groups have challenged a recent news report on increased transparency in Uganda’s oil sector and repeated their call for the government to publish all oil deals.
An article that appeared in The New Vision on June 30 noted in its headline that “Government discloses oil deals.” However, campaigners argue, only limited information—on petroleum royalty rates—has been released to MPs.
“We welcome steps towards greater transparency, but it is important to be clear on what has and has not been revealed,” said George Boden, a Global Witness campaigner. “Royalty details are a crucial piece of information for the Ugandan public, but they represent only a tiny fraction of the overall picture. To truly understand the nature of these deals we need to see the full production sharing contracts and associated documents.”
The New Vision article acknowledges that the most recent Production Sharing Agreements have not been made public. They were signed by the government despite a parliamentary resolution calling for a freeze on any further deals until new laws were in place. As such, civic activists say, the Ugandan public does not have access to full information on the agreements, including taxes and bonuses that the companies have agreed to pay, and the nature of any stabilisation, confidentiality and arbitration clauses.
“The reality is that Uganda’s petroleum sector has been shrouded in secrecy and marred by strong central government control, corruption allegations and international tax disputes. Ugandan citizens still do not have access to the contracts themselves, and the proposed oil legislation currently before parliament does little to quell concerns over a lack of transparency in the sector,” said Dickens Kamugisha, Chief Executive of the African Institute for Energy Governance and Chair of an Oil Watch coalition of Ugandan civil society organisations.
“Transparency is not just about ad-hoc statements and briefings,” said Winifred Ngabiirwe, Chair of the Publish What You Pay Coalition in Uganda. “The Government should commit to publishing contracts in full, like Timor-Leste, Ghana and Denmark. They should also commit to publishing all incoming payments on a project specific basis, and opening up the allocation process to public scrutiny. This is the only way to ensure full public confidence in the management of the oil sector.”
The new oil laws currently before Parliament do not guarantee transparency over key documents such as PSAs, campaigners say. They argue that the laws give extensive discretionary powers to the Minister with responsibility for petroleum, and little role for parliament. There is very limited information about how a newly formed national oil company will function and what information will be made available about its operation and finances.
Adapted from Global Witness press release