02 September 2013, Kampala – The Ugandan Parliament will take a final decision on how revenues earned from crude oil sales and operations are to be used, finance minister Maria Kiwanuka has said.
This, she said, was one of the mechanism of ensuring transparency and accountability in Uganda’s nascent oil and gas industry.
Speaking at a workshop to debate the management of oil revenues held in Kampala, the minister said the Government came up with an oil revenue management policy and is in the process of updating the Public Finance and Accountability law to cater for the petroleum revenue management.
This process is through the Public Finance Bill, 2012 that is now before Parliament for debate and subsequent approval into law.
Kiwanuka said Parliament will have the final decision on how the oil money is spent through the budgetary allocations.
Her remarks follow concerns over the transparency and accountability in the management of Uganda’ oil operations and expected revenues.
This is after an estimated 3.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent were confirmed in Uganda’s Lake Albert basin. The resource could generate up to $2b in revenues every year.
Peter Lokeris, the state minister for minerals, said in the workshop attended by Members of Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas, civil society, private sector and media fraternity, that transparency and accountability is one of the guiding principles of the National Oil and Gas Policy 2008.
“The policy underscores the need to ensure collection of the right revenues and use them to create lasting value for the entire nation,” he said.
“Government emphasizes that the management of this (oil) resource must be hinged on good governance where transparency and accountability are practices, the environment protected and conserved, national participation is ensured and better socio-infrastructure and services for the country is availed.”
The National Oil and Gas Policy 2008 explicitly commit government to participate in the processes of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, implementation.
But Winfred Ngabirwe, the Global Right Alert head, wondered why it has taken long to join the initiative.
But the state minister for mineral Lokeris said that there “is no doubt that the Government has already embarked on the process by first studying the procedures taken.”
“The fact that we provided for it in our policy is a clear indication that we want great transparency in the natural resources sector.”
Barbara Kaija, the editor-in-chief of the Vision Group, said there was a need to provide timely information to enable the media inform and educate the population about the opportunities and challenges the new oil sector comes with.
Calling for the support for the building of media capacity to report effectively about the oil industry, Kaija said strengthening journalists’ skills would help the media “dig deeper” into oil and gas issues for better public policies.
“An illiterate media will lead to an illiterate community. An illiterate community will hamper development. Therefore a strong media will lead to faster development in the oil sector,” she said.
“We need to get it right with the media from the start. It is critical to have well informed media in the eve of oil production and access to information is important,” she added.
City advocate, Oscar Kihika said Uganda has to ensure that laws are well-implemented.
“Uganda has the best laws on paper in the world but the problem is with implementation,” he said.
“Citizens have the right to question how the Government is managing their resources and this call for transparency and accountability.
– New Vision