The recent passage of the Petroleum Revenue Bill by the Ghanaian legislature has drawn accolades from international humanitarian organization, Oxfam America and its local partner in the country, the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas. “I wish to commend the Ghanaian legislature and all the relevant stakeholders for this landmark achievement,” said Souleymane Zeba, Oxfam America’s West Africa Regional Director. “It is fortunate and highly commendable that Ghana is assuming leadership and showing the right direction for West Africa.”
“This development demonstrates the commitment of the people to make Ghana a model of sustained democracy founded on transparency and accountability” said Mohammed Amin Adam, the convener of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas. “Ghana has no doubt set one of the highest standards for transparency in the management of her petroleum revenues, judging by the provisions of this law.”
This law requires the country’s Minister of Finance to reconcile quarterly petroleum revenue receipts and expenditures and submit reports to the Parliament as well as publish the reports in the newspapers and online. The law also makes provision for four different types of audits of the petroleum accounts, namely, internal audits, external audits, annual audits, and special audits as well as the submission by the Minister of Finance of an annual report on the petroleum account and the Ghana Petroleum Funds as part of the annual presentation of the budget statement and economic policies to the Parliament.
Apart from providing for ample public access to information on petroleum industry operations, the law provides for the establishment of a Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) – a public-oriented body that oversees the management of petroleum revenues. This is in Clause 53 of the Law that proved highly contentious and one of the major talking points during the parliamentary debate on the bill. In November 2010, the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas issued a press statement and presented a petition to the Parliament when there was an attempt by the legislative body to amend the bill. The press statement read: “It has become worrisome that the members of the Joint Select Parliamentary Committees on Energy and Mines and Finance have proposed amendments to and deletion of some sections of the provisions for transparency, especially those that are critical for effective public oversight by the proposed PIAC.”
Passage of the bill is seen as a triumph for civil society activism. “Despite the delay in passing the bill, I would like to congratulate the entire civil society and the parliament for a job well done, especially by ensuring that all the transparency provisions were agreed upon by both sides of the house,” said Richard Hato-Kuevor, the Extractive Industries Advocacy Officer for Oxfam America. “Now that the bill has been passed, we hope the relevant structures would be put in place as quickly as possible to manage the revenues that will accrue to the state from the sector.” This position was corroborated by Adam. “It is refreshing that the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill which has now been passed addresses most of the transparency concerns of the citizens. Citizens now have the legal basis to demand transparency and accountability,” he said. In Zeba’s opinion, “This should not be restricted to oil and gas. It should be extended to all the extractive resources of Ghana, including industrial fishing, timber, and mining industries, and Ghana should champion this cause in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).”
The monitoring role of civil society is not finished, however. “Citizens must remain perpetually vigilant in spite of all the assurances in the bill and by the President of the Republic to transparently and honestly manage the petroleum resources,” concluded Adam.