Disclose the extractives sector Contracts and allow Citizen Participation

By Editorial

Globally, there is increasing recognition of the benefits of transparency in public data and ever greater momentum towards reform.

This is particularly true in the extractive sector; with civil society groups, such as Publish What You Pay, governments, and parliamentarians contributing to a growing movement against opacity and towards improved governance.

Transparency of information empowers citizens and civil society groups to hold their governments accountable for responsible stewardship of national resources and reduces opportunities for corruption among public officials.
Like any other Natural Resource host Country, Uganda has signed contracts and licenses with extractive companies to exploit publicly held resources. These contracts contain key information on project fiscal terms, production, local content, health, safety, and environment.

However, these contracts and licenses have not been publicly disclosed, and continue to be a secret. Evidence suggests that the government’s reliance on extractive revenues has the potential to emasculate citizen scrutiny of government action and policies. In the same vein, if citizens have no sense of ownership of the public revenues, it becomes palatable for governments to maintain secrecy over revenues and expenditures from extractives.

 This is particularly the case where mining companies pay taxes directly to the state, and citizens have minimal oversight regarding the flow of revenue and expenditure. In the end, lack of information and ownership leads to a hemorrhage of revenues and an accountability deficit. 

However, increasing disclosure of contracts promotes transparency, accountability, and public participation in the management of mineral revenues. This in turn leads to improvement of people’s livelihoods, job creation, effective technology transfer, and generation of significant income for sustainable development of the country. 
It is essential that citizens gain access to and understand extractive contracts agreed by their governments in their names, in order to ensure that the public obtains the fullest benefit possible from the exploitation of their nation’s natural resource wealth. 

The available evidence confirms that government officials have opted for non-disclosure provisions in the revenue-sharing agreements, which undermine the progress that Uganda has made towards a more accountable government.
 Several attempts by Ugandans to access information regarding oil production-sharing agreements with multinational companies, for instance, have been rendered futile, due to these non-disclosure clauses. 

It remains to be seen whether Uganda will sign other non-disclosure agreements, going forward, after her admission to the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). 

Therefore, for Ugandans to be able to participate and benefit from Extractive Resources, there is an Urgent need to publicly disclose all Oil and Gas contracts, mining permits it has issued, and all mining revenues paid to it.

 This will make the government win trust of the mining communities and make it difficult for government officials or agencies to sign deals that don’t attract maximum revenues to the government. The Government should systematically disclose and explain to the public and mining communities in particular the revenues, volumes, and other critical information on mining production at least twice a year.

An artisanal miner on duty

Good practice calls for the regular disclosure of the revenues generated from the extractive industries. 
Such disclosure can improve the tax collection process and enhance public trust in the government.

 Twebaze Paul, Executive Director – Pro-biodiversity Conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU) & Member Publish What You Pay Uganda (PWYP-U). twebbzo@yahoo.com