By Seibik Bugri
Dr Mohammed Amin Executive Director, African Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) has encouraged youth groups, young women and men, faith-based bodies, student leadership and various civil societies to submit memos to Parliament to capture their expectations in the pending Petroleum- (exploration & production) Bill 2014 to reflect their values and what they expect from the oil revenue.
Only when they (youth) play a significant role in shaping the outcome of the yet-to-be-passed Petroleum- (exploration & production) Bill 2014 that their hope regarding the utilization of the oil revenue will be realized. ?Rather than sit back and blame politicians?. Until they input into the bill they ?have no excuses? he averse.
Delivering a day?s lecture, Dr Amin noted that educating the masses especially the young ones not to downplay the seriousness of how oil revenue was being handled is as significant as their personal progress and well being. They could easily be short-changed if they didn?t show keen interest in the way oil revenue was used.
He said the PNDC law 84 used in governing the oil revenue does not have any semblance of transparency and accountability. The gathering was taken through how Ghana?s procedure for obtaining an oil block after discovery. Despite all these short comings, Dr Amin praised the government for taking a bold step towards reviewing the law to enable the state derive maximum benefit as the law was passed at a time Ghana hadn?t discovered oil.
Clause 10 & 10 (6)
Citing Clause 10 and visibly worried, the gathering heard that clause 10 (3) of the pending Petroleum- (exploration & production) Bill 2014 still has many worrying concerns to be described as very good enough and called on participants to speak up especially clause 10 & 10 (6) which gives the sector Minister veto powers to the outcome of any competitive and open bidding process for oil blocks without offering any explanations to the citizens. The Energy Minister is not obliged to give reasons nor required to publish any of the contracts for Ghanaian citizens or any stakeholder to question and track how oil blocks are awarded making nonsense of a tendering process. More worrying is the clause 10 (6) where the Energy Minister can decide unilaterally to negotiate with a company of his choose again without any explanation. Companies such as Blue skies, Sahara, amongst others whose capacity was ? marginal? and did not have any drilling a competitive drilling capacity were offered juicy deep water blocks without merit. This clearly is a breeding ground for corruption and graft.
Minister of Energy
This aspect of his submission then drew that attention of participants to questioned the rationale behind one person ?the Minister of Energy alone to be the only and only person deciding on how a huge material resources such as oil of the country be allocated to a company. Even though they were told that there is little that can be done they (stakeholders) still say the business of oil is so huge with significant consequences for just one Minister of Energy alone, as it stands in the yet-to-be-passed Petroleum- (exploration & production ) Bill to decide.
Discussants wanted to know why Ghana has not gotten an integrated material policy for the benefit of the country. That, if done will allow a synchronization of all extractive resources in the country for effective utilization. Their participation in presenting memos will tell government that the larger society have interest in the oil business. The main speaker disclosed that since the discovery of oil Government has refused to publish how the oil revenue is being used in accordance with law.
On the theme ?Stakeholder forum on Open Contracting in the Oil and Gas Industry? the close to 60 participants heard that good practices from many oil producing countries has shown that transparent and competitive bidding will serve the best interest of Ghana than it will if allowed to be passed into law. Dr Amin explained that currently it is first come, first serve basis leaving much to be desired. This is not accountable enough. Doing a competitive analysis of oil contracting between Angola, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Brazil and Ghana?s situations to drum home how robust laws of South Sudan are. In Ghana until the document comes to parliament for approval no one is privy to this huge contract with significant countrywide consequences. This leaves a huge gap for the Minister to manipulate the entire contracting process.
The Director of Programs, Ben Boachie in his opening remarks noted that as a centre they have identified some gaps in the exploration bill and so are urging all to be involved in advocating for policymakers to engage stakeholders, the youth and all Ghanaians in general for them to craft a benefiting law for all. For just one oil field to yield $2.7 billion should tell all present how high the stakes are and for which reason they must play a significant role in how upstream laws and how all these will eventually affect their future.
The Board chair of ACEP Dr. Jemima Nunu added that getting women, venerable, faith-based and student leadership organizations to deliberate on the Open Contracting and the Petroleum (exploration & production) Bill 2014 was very crucial to ACEP.