Corporate Social Responsibility: Filling the gap in service delivery
By Haggai Matsiko
“Thanks to the oil, we are getting better facilities. The government used to take us as if we were foreigners, we were not getting these services,” says Henry Irumba, LC 1 Chairman at Kaiso landing site, Hoima District.
“We used to walk about three kilometers to get drinking water, it was not easy,” recalls Joyce Asaba, a resident of Kalolo landing site, Kisumu village in Buliisa District.
These are some of the many testimonies one will hear in several areas in the Albertine Region, thanks to a magical acronym: CSR- Corporate Social Responsibility.
Mr. Irumba’s joy is from a satellite primary school that Tullow Oil is building to replace the wooden classroom blocks that currently make up Kaiso Primary school.
Joyce, on the other hand, is referring to a borehole that was built by Tullow Oil, opposite the Kasemene 3 well in Buliisa, one of the first projects the company established for the fishing village.
In addition to the borehole, this community has also benefitted from other CSR interventions by Tullow, in health and education.
“I am sure you have seen the health facility on your way here,” boasts the Bullisa District Chairman, Fred Lukumu. “The health facility was approved by government because it was a priority for us.”
According to Tullow Oil, this health facility alone cost 2 million dollars, and will be equipped with a maternity ward, operating theatre, outpatient department, X-ray block, nurses and doctors’ residences, attendants’ shelter and other standard infrastructure.
In Hoima District, Tullow is constructing two health centers and two primary schools at an estimated cost of 2.6 million dollars. This brings the total investment by one company into the community to at least 5 million dollars.
Tullow’s other partners,Total and CNOOC, have also invested substantial amounts of money in social projects in the Albertine, although not to the scale of Tullow given that they entered the Ugandan play much later, in early 2012.
In March this year, CNOOC launched a $ 50,000 one-year basic skills training programme at Nile Vocational Institute in Hoima, sponsoring 70 youths to train in metal fabrication, wielding and other vocational skills. The company also supports a primary school and health center in Buhukya (Hoima), where the Kingfisher discoveries are located.
French giant Total has too made significant investments in education.
On the face of it, it appears the companies are indeed investing into the communities, way before they can start earning profits from the production of oil.
Giving back to the community?
According to Tullow Uganda’s former Communications Manager, Cathy Adengo, the company’s social investment programme focuses on projects that make a real and sustainable difference in the communities and they are developed in line with district development plans following extensive engagement with the local communities.
But some of the intended beneficiaries disagree.
“They are over publicizing the structures,” says Kabagambe Edward, the Buliisa District Sub-county chief. “I hear them announcing how they have built a hospital and schools but the ordinary person hasn’t felt anything,” he complains.
Kabagambe would have preferred the Buliisa health center to be located within the community rather than its current location, three kilometers away.
“They (oil companies) have been here for five years, what have they done that has created impact?”
But Kabagambe’s concerns are part of a bigger problem-the huge expectations that the communities in the oil-producing areas have in the oil companies.
Robert Businge, a local community worker, agrees that the locals have many demands, the reason why the CSR projects need to go beyond the social aspect and address the economic demands as well.
“Tullow Oil only entered negotiations with the district leadership on the programmes,” he says. “The community’s role has been undermined. Going forward, this needs to change.”
Mr. Businge explains that ultimately, the host communities will suffer any negative impacts of oil exploration and subsequent production.
“That is why we need CSR projects that address challenges like that,” he argues.
He proposes water irrigation and fish ponds as better social investment projects.
But in an email response, David Onyango, Tullow’s Acting Communications Manager, insisted that all the projects were decided upon after consulting the concerned parties.
“Consultations with the communities and the government took place and these projects are all in the district development plans,” he wrote. “The social investment infrastructure projects are coded government schools and health centres.”
Yet as the builders put final touches to the Buliisa health center, there are already worries about the sustainability of the facility, as well as several other projects that Tullow Oil has established in this oil region.
Some locals are particularly unhappy with Tullow’s plan to hand the facilities over to government upon completion-a concern borne out of years of poor service delivery by the same government.
For instance, since 2006 Buliisa District has not had a medical officer at its main health centre. A nurse at the hospital told Oil in Uganda that the centre only has clinical officers.
The health centre itself is in shambles, with some of the structures on the verge of collapsing.
Wendi Mulinda, the LC 1 Chairman in the area is pessimistic. “We have failed to attract a doctor for so many years, where will the doctors come from to work in this new one?” he asks.
Oil in Uganda learnt that the Ministry of Health has posted over 20 health officials to the district but we could not confirm how many of them had reported.
“What people forget is that this is a hard place to work because it is too remote, there are no facilities,” says Mulinda.
It is on the same basis that Buliisa MP, Stephen Mukitale, has proposed that the central government includes the district on the list of hard-to-stay areas, a move that would come with extra benefits for workers.
But Lukumu dismisses such fears and is confident the new facilities will be well managed by government.
“The facility will be sustainable because the government has sustained projects of this nature before,” he says. “We have plans to get some more paramedics on the ground, plus we expect more in terms of expansion and maintenance when production (of oil) starts.”
Mr. Lukumu sums up what every resident in the oil-producing districts expects from the oil companies-more and more.