WASHINGTON, DC – A meeting of the Board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) concluded today with 16 out of 17 countries granted extensions after requesting more time to complete the EITI validation process. Validation involves external third-party assessment of country progress on opening the books on oil, gas, and mining payments. Equatorial Guinea was the only country not granted an extension because the board determined it had not demonstrated “exceptional and unforeseeable circumstances outside the country’s control” regarding the failure to meet the initial validation deadline. Sao Tome and Principe was also dropped from the list of implementing countries because it was not granted a voluntary suspension by the board.
In reaction to these developments, Ian Gary, Senior Policy Manager for Extractive Industries at international aid and humanitarian organization Oxfam America made the following statement:
“Many countries had not even completed draft validation reports before the initial March 9 deadline, so the reasons for granting them extensions should be fully explained. The EITI board should fully disclose the rationale for accepting the extension requests of 16 countries, including the ‘exceptional and unforeseen circumstances’ that were accepted as valid. This information will help external observers, and the countries themselves, judge whether or not the rules were consistently applied. All countries must be treated the same and according to the EITI’s own rules. Disclosure of the reasons for granting extension requests will also help increase awareness of any external issues that have been hampering EITI progress.
“While it’s unclear how much time countries have been granted, extensions should be of limited duration and one-time only. The strength of this voluntary initiative will depend on enforcing real deadlines and consistently applying the rules.
“During the next few months, the EITI board should carefully scrutinize the final validation reports, especially with regard to the free, independent, and active participation of citizen watchdog groups in the country-level EITI process. Respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and association, is fundamental to the reform agenda in resource-rich countries. Transparency regarding financial flows in the oil and mining industries can help increase accountability around government spending decisions only in countries where citizens, journalists, and parliamentarians can ask questions of their own governments.
“While EITI is making some progress in some countries, the pace and depth of progress to date, and the fact that many resource-rich countries are outside the process, show that other complementary measures are needed. The US Congress, for example, should pass the Energy Security through Transparency Act this year, to increase the disclosure of oil, gas, and mining company payment information to host governments around the world.”