The Institute of Economic Affairs, a policy think tank and research institution, has asked the government to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill into law to enhance transparency and accountability in the petroleum resource management.
Presenting the outcome of the 2017 Petroleum Transparency and Accountability (P-TRAC) Index Report in Accra, on Tuesday, Professor John Asafu-Adjaye, a Senior Research Fellow at the IEA, said the passage of the RTI Bill into law would improve disclosure of information on the award of contracts and licences in the oil and gas sector.
He cited the recent petroleum agreement signed between Ghana and Exxon Mobil of the United States to undertake oil and gas exploration in the Deep Tano Basin as a case in point, which was shrouded in secrecy because details of the contract was not made public.
The Report also called for the Marine Pollution and the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency bills to be presented to Parliament for passage into law.
The IEA’s P-TRAC Index project, which started in 2011, provides quantitative indicators to track progress in the governance of the oil and gas sector aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in the sector.
Prof. Asafu-Adjaye noted that, if Ghana wanted to be a major player in the petroleum industry, then these bills must be passed into law so that oil companies would fulfil their responsibilities and not take the nation for a ride.
He said the passage of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) was not enough to ensure transparency and accountability in the petroleum sector, hence the need to pass those bills into law to complement the PRMA.
He added that portions of the Citizens Budget should include; information on the governance of the petroleum resources so that the ordinary Ghanaian would understand issues pertaining to the sector.
However, he noted that, the passage of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill into Law by Parliament in 2016, had improved the availability of information on petroleum resource management.
He said currently, individuals could easily find information on petroleum issues and revenues on the Ministry of Finance’s website and in the Budget Statement as well as the Public Interest and Accountability Committee’s Annual Report.
Prof. Asafu-Adjaye said the methodology used to conduct the P-TRAC Index closely followed conventions proposed by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the World Bank’s Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency.
He indicated that the Index was based on four aspects of the oil and gas value chain, namely; Revenue Transparency, Expenditure Transparency, Contract Transparency and Management of the Petroleum Funds.
IEA defined ‘Transparency as the provision of information to the public and the extent to which international best practices were used in the management of the oil and gas resources’.
It also defined ‘Publicly Available Information” as data that can be freely obtained from the relevant government agencies’ websites, or which can be obtained in hard copy form upon request or information that is published on a regular basis in national dailies.
Mr Samuel Okudzeto, a member of the Council of State, contributing to the discussion on petroleum management, said Parliament was supposed to build its capacity to scrutinise petroleum contracts so as to prevent corruption.
He stated that Parliament had the Public Account Committee, with the mandate to call institutions put in charge of the management of petroleum revenues for questioning.
Mr. Okudzeto criticised the two major political parties, the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party whose Members of Parliament had dominated the Legislature for the past 25 years for failing to pass the RTI Bill into law, describing their actions as a “conspiracy theory” meant to deny Ghanaians access to critical information.
Dr. Eric Osei-Assibey, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana and Adjunct Fellow of the IEA, who chaired the function, said the country’s petroleum funds (Heritage Funds) had not yielded the needed dividends.
He noted that, the nation had invested about US$625 million of the country’s petroleum funds in the United States of America at an interest rate of 2.25 percent, which had yielded a paltry US$25 million dollars within a period of five years.
Dr Osei-Assibey said it did not make sense for the nation to invest in such a low profit investment product, while Government continued borrowing at over 10 percent interest rate on the international monetary market.
The presentation of the P-TRAC Index Report attracted some members of Parliament, Ministers of State, the diplomatic community, senior citizens and the media.