The Vice Chairman of the Public Interest and Account Committee (PIAC), Kwame Jantuah has urged Finance and Economic Journalists to acquaint themselves with the laws governing the oil and gas sector contained in the current Public Revenue Management Act.
According to him such a move on the part of journalists will provide them with the requisite legal knowledge to scrutinize and interrogate the management of petroleum revenues by the government especially at a time when the Oil and Gas Industry is witnessing the entrance of one of the world’s leading oil giant ExxonMobile to undertake exploration activities in the country.
The government of Ghana last week Thursday 18th of January, 2018 signed an agreement with the oil giant to finalize the move which will see it commence operations later this year. Following the signing of the agreement ExxonMobil joins other oil giants including Tullow and Kosmos to embark oil exploration operations in Ghana.
But some civil society organizations and industry analysts have raised concerns over the inability of the government through the Energy Minister to resort to an open bidding process to select ExxonMobil.
Speaking at a workshop to interrogate the 2017 Semi Annual PIAC Report organized by the Public Interest Account Committee (PIAC) and the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ) in partnership with GIZ, lawyer Jantuah noted that knowing the law bordering on the oil sector would have empowered the Ghanaian media to insist on the government for the right thing to be done despite efforts by the Energy Minister to throw dust into the eyes of the general public and defending the agreement procedure with ExxonMobil.
He said this has also become necessary because journalists serves as the interface between the public and the government hence the need to abreast themselves with laws in the PRMA to enable them hold the government accountable on behalf of the Ghanaian public.
He then cited article 58 (a) and (b) of the PRMA under penalties which states that “A person who misappropriates the Petroleum Fund, defrauds, attempts to defraud or conspires with another person to defraud the Republic in relation to the Petroleum Fund commits an offence and its liable on summary conviction on a fine of not less than five hundred thousand penalty units or term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years or to both” and relates how most MMDA’s in the country are misappropriating petroleum funds allocated to their coffers from the Budget Funding Accounts (ABFA) hence the need for journalists to highlights some of these breaches and its associated penalties so as to get the relevant agencies to ensure that punishments are meted out to offending institutions.
The 2017 Semi Annual Report covers the period January to June 2017 and encompasses a broad range of issues associated with petroleum revenue management such as information on production, liftings, total revenues accruing, allocation and utilization of revenues by the government, and the management of the funds set aside in the Ghana Petroleum Fund (Ghana Stabilization Fund and the Ghana Heritage Fund).
The period under review in the Report according to the Public Interest Account Committee (PIAC) witnessed the coming on-stream of the first oil from Sankofa Gye Nyame (SGN) field in May 2017 and that the turnaround from the disappointing output of 2017 was characterized by improvements in both crude oil and raw gas production, as well as receipts from the sector.
By: Nana Appiah Acquaye