Oil industry players have called for the review of the law that set up the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) so it would be able to play more meaningful and beneficial role in the sector.
“Perhaps it is time to give GNPC a new law, a law that will make GNPC more focused on its mandate and curb its tendency to engage in wide ranging activities that detract from efficiency,” Mr Nicolas De-Heer, Head of Programmes, Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), an oil and gas think tank said in a presentation at a town hall meeting on Monday.
Speaking at the maiden Joy Business Town Hall meeting, organised in partnership with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra, Mr De-Heer said GNPC seemed to be given a “blank cheque” as part of its mandate, making it seemed to be veering off from what it was set up to be.
The GNPC was established in 1983 under the PNDC Law 64, which mandates the corporation to undertake exploration, development, production and disposal of petroleum.
It also “preform any other functions as it deemed necessary or expedient for the purpose of attaining object in carrying out its activities”- that sounds like a blank cheque to me,” Mr De-Heer said.
“But in the past, GNPC had engage in a wide ranging of activities, which include non-petroleum related investment, holding equity stake in ‘lose making investment’, like Prestea Sankofa gold limited, a mining that was shut down in the last quarter of 2016 and it liabilities continue to weigh heavily on the finances of GNPC”.
“In 2018, GNPC set aside nearly 25 million dollars to pay off the mines liability, why is that the case,” Mr De-heer queried.
He said there was also a quasi-fiscal transaction and activities that were required to be performed by the government, a role, which GNPC seemed to be playing. “So GNPC is seen constructing roads and advancing loans to government.
The third category of non-core activity of GNPC was the Corporate Social Responsibility-, of which its budget was so huge that it in some case overtook its personal and emolument budget- and that is the problem”.
Mr Adam Mutawakilu, Minority Spokesperson on Mines and Energy, said aside looking at the law that established GNPC, the corporation should be well resourced so it could participate in the actual oil production and developing local expertise that would manage Ghana’s sector in the long term.
Mr Suleimana Ibrahim, Executive Director, MFWA, said “the oil is money and Ghana’s oil has given us money but the schools are yet to be fully built, our roads are yet to be fixed and our hospitals are yet to be equipped.
“With that much hope and anticipation with which we entered into the oil sector, we need to look back and see what went wrong, and what we learnt, and what must we do differently going forward.
“We are here to have a very dispassionate reflection on the oil discovery for the last 10 years, and hopefully be able to come out up with recommendations that will help us shape the oil industry to make it in such a way that it benefits the majority of our people and not a few,” Mr Ibrahim said.
He said the MFWA was partnering with the Multimedia group and JoyFm to organise the Town Hall Meeting because of its belief in the power of the media to change society.
Mr Ben Boakye, Executive Director for the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), said Ghana needed to work towards generating incomes that would benefit all Ghanaians.
Dr Steve Manteaw, Chairman of Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), said Ghana had rolled out some innovative things in making citizens participatory in the governance of the sector, but government needed to operate strictly according to the Petroleum Regulatory Management Act (PRMA).
Dr Amin Adam, Deputy Minister of Energy, said the government would take on board the suggestions and work towards streamlining the sector, opening it up for more exploration and production opportunities that would benefit all Ghanaians.