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General News of Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Source: GNA

Make negotiations on oil public - GII

Accra, May 20, GNA - The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) on Tuesday asked government to make public all agreements signed on the country's crude oil to ensure transparency in negotiations.

This, it said, was necessary to inform citizens on tax concessions, repatriation of profits, environmental impact assessment and compensation to enable them to monitor producing companies and revenue. Briefing the press in Accra on findings of the 2008 Report on Revenue Transparency of Oil Companies and Lessons for Ghana, Mr. Vitus A. Azem, Executive Secretary of GII, said government must listen to all stakeholders, especially civil society and communities that would be negatively affected, in order to avoid signing bad deals. The report, compiled by Transparency International and the Revenue Watch Institute revealed that 60 per cent of the world's poorest lived in resource rich countries and revenue transparency of oil and gas companies were low.

Mr. Azem said considering the pressure on oil companies even in their home countries and Ghana's performance on the Corruption Perception Index, ensuring transparency was necessary. He said revenue in oil producing companies was expected to reach one trillion dollars this year, the highest in the industry, and this also made the quest for transparency more crucial. "The challenge now for Ghana is how to reconcile the gains and commitment made in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative process and take actions that would ensure transparency, openness and public accountability and trust of contracting the process," he added. Mr. Azem said the report had therefore asked Ghana to conduct thorough investigations on the operations of oil companies to avoid dealing with those with bad records.

He also expressed the need for civil society and the media to keep an eye on the resource by building networks and coalitions to present a unified voice to seek redress when their rights were being infringed upon.

The Ghana Stock Exchange and other regulatory agencies, Mr Azem said, should mandate the companies to publish information in a uniform and accessible manner. The Executive Secretary also tasked diplomatic missions to obtain information about these companies and negotiate for transparency through their governments. Mr Azem further called for legislations to back revenue transparency initiatives before production began.

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