CSOs Request Transparent Oil Contracts 

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called for collaboration between government and extractive industry companies to make contracting in the oil, gas and mining sectors “open by default,” as per its commitment at the 2016 U.K. Anti-Corruption Summit.

A briefing note on contract disclosure that was put together by GHEITI and NRGI, which made the appeal, said disclosing contracts was one of the most important steps that Ghana could take to promote transparency of its extractive sector, adding that at least 39 countries now disclose contracts.

For each extractive project, this entails disclosing the complete set of full-text contracts and related documents of interest to the public.

Since 2013, the EITI standard has “encouraged” implementing countries to publish contacts.

Prepared by the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the brief explores issues surrounding contract disclosure in detail and suggests four specific steps for the path ahead.

“Government should work with companies and civil society groups to identify specific user needs and concerns relating to disclosure. This will ensure that disclosures are optimized to benefit all parties. Given their multi-stakeholder set-up, GHEITI and PIAC could be useful forums for this discussion.

On establishing disclosure rules, the CSOs said government should establish effective disclosure rules as soon as possible.

“For the petroleum sector, the petroleum regulations provide a timely opportunity to put disclosure commitments in law. The Freedom of Information Bill, the GHEITI bill and proposals to update the Minerals and Mining Act and develop a Minerals Revenue Management Act present important opportunities that could also target mining sector disclosures.”

Touching on contracts accessibility, the organisations advised that government should build a disclosure regime that makes contracts and associated documents easy to find, search, browse and use.

“Best practice would involve the development of a dedicated online “one-stop shop,” bringing together disclosures with respect to each extractive project made by different government institutions, including sector ministries and the environmental protection agency and company disclosures.

The contract documents themselves should be published in line with open data principles.”

They further commented on supporting contract use and said the country’s efforts should not end with the disclosure of contracts and licences.

“For the government, companies and citizens to benefit from contract disclosure, the government of Ghana should support initiatives to encourage the use of contracts. This may involve technological and informational tools such as plain-language explanations of contracts, or training and outreach, including participation in public forums to discuss contract terms, and trainings to build the capacity of local government officials, journalists, civil society groups and other stakeholders to better understand the nuances of extractive industry contracts and their impacts on extractive industry governance.”