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EITI still a priority, says government

Energy Minister re-affirms government's committment to joining EITI at the EITI annual conference in Sydney, Australia last year. Despite repeated assurances from government, EITI

Energy Minister, Irene Muloni, re-affirms government’s commitment to joining EITI at the EITI annual conference in Sydney, Australia last year. Despite repeated assurances from government, no progress has been made towards joining the voluntary transparency initiative.

The Norwegian government has refuted claims that it has withdrawn funding support to facilitate Uganda’s joining the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Earlier reports had indicated that Norway, through its Oil for Development (OfD) program, had dropped all EITI related activities from their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Uganda government.

“We were told that government is not interested in the institution,” said Winnie Ngabiirwe, the Publish What You Pay Champion in Uganda. “Government says that the Public Finance Bill will serve the same purpose, so there is no need for EITI.”

But Morten Svelle, Minister Counselor at the  Norwegian Embassy in Kampala, dismissed the allegations, and re-affirmed his government’s commitment to the EITI project in Uganda.

“When it comes to the cooperation within the frame of the Oil for Development program, the Embassy has confirmed to MOFPED (Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development) that we will support EITI activities as appropriate,” he wrote in an e-mail response to Oil in Uganda.

Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanuzi, also denied that government had sidelined EITI.

“We are not withdrawing,” he said. “I am the one who lobbied for government to commit to EITI, we are (still) committed to transparency.”

Government has repeatedly expressed its willingness to join EITI, but has not taken any concrete steps towards doing so even as the country progresses towards oil production.

Finance Minister, Maria Kiwanuka, told a transparency conference in Kampala last year that her government was at the preparation stages of joining the voluntary initiative, but no progress has been registered since then.

“I cannot go into a narrow checklist but EITI is on the government menu, it is something that is happening ,” she told delegates at the conference. “It is never too late to join the EITI. The US just joined in 2013, some other countries had just joined the year before.”

Report by Flavia Nalubega