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Transparency activists look to 2016 as UK leads the EU in adopting new law

Ugandans are being encouraged to enter into joint ventures with international oil and gas contractors but it is unlikely they can afford that level of investment.

Starting 2016, it will be possible to track the amounts of money some oil and gas companies are paying to governments around the world, including Uganda.

Oil, gas, mining and logging companies incorporated or listed in the United Kingdom will, starting in 2016, publicly disclose all payments they make to governments of countries in which they work  following the passing into law of the European Union Accounting Directive  by the British Parliament yesterday.

The UK adopted Chapter 10 of the EU Accounting Directive into national law, setting the pace for the other twenty-seven European Union members to join the global push for greater extractives transparency.

The EU Parliament passed the Accounting and Transparency Directives in 2013 and member states have until 2015 to transpose the Directives into their national laws.

Under the new law, all companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and/or incorporated in the UK will have to declare all payments above £86,000 (about 370 million shillings) they make to governments in every country they operate.

The first reports will be made public in 2016 and will cover payments made to governments in 2015.

According to Winnie Ngabire, National Coordinator of the Publish What You Pay Coalition in Uganda, the development is a huge step towards ensuring that citizens in resource-rich countries access vital information on how much money their governments are making from the exploitation of natural resources.

“This information will empower citizens to assess what revenues will be earned and therefore ask their governments how the accrued revenues are being managed and invested,” she told Oil in Uganda.

“The law will go a long way in fighting corruption, ultimately making it possible for citizens to benefit and since some of the players in Uganda such as Total are covered, it makes it better for Uganda.”

George Boden, a Campaigner at Global Witness welcomed the new law, noting that citizens can now start holding their governments accountable.

“UK has many oil and gas companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. They will now have to publish a breakdown of payments they make to governments and that includes signature bonuses and royalties,” he said. “With this, we can check if what is paid is actually what is received.”

Several oil and gas companies operating in East Africa are listed in London. They include Tullow Oil, BG Group, BP, Total S.A, Eni and Statoil.

Report by Beatrice Ongode

editor@oilinuganda.org