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Business News of Thursday, 2 June 2016

Source: The Finder

Petroleum laws must punish corrupt officials – ACEP

The Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), an energy focused Think-Tank has called on oil and gas producing countries in Africa to incorporate anti-corruption clauses

in their petroleum laws and contracts to improve accountability and avert the wastage of oil resources.

According to ACEP “such clauses should seek to criminalise conflict of interest situations involving public officials who are engaged in oil and gas contracting and in regulating oil and gas operations.”

These were contained in a new report dubbed ‘Africa Oil Governance,’ prepared and launched by ACEP in Accra last Monday.

The report among others identifies the key governance challenges that confront oil and gas producers in Africa and how those challenges can be addressed through policy, legal and institutional interventions.

ACEP further called on governments to establish public registers of beneficial ownership that will help promote transparency and deal decisively with conflict of interest situations in the award of contracts.

“Governments must proactively maintain and regularly update the registers and ensure that they are comprehensive, comprehensible and easily accessible to the public,” the report recommended.

Discussions on beneficial ownership disclosure have gained unparalleled global and national traction, especially among Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The debate was fueled even by the release of the Panama Papers. Prior to President Dramani Mahama’s trip to the United Kingdom (UK) for the Anti-Corruption Summit last month, the CSOs called him to demonstrate government’s commitment to the fight against corruption in Ghana by committing to establish a central register of beneficial owners which should be accessible by law enforcement agencies, competent authorities and the public.

Experts in the oil sector in Ghana have been pushing for full disclosure of beneficial owners of oil blocks and contracts. The contend that even though access to information on contracts and payments has been identified as key to natural resource governance, contracts between governments and oil and gas companies remain shrouded in secrecy.

ACEP called on countries which do not have competitive bidding provisions in their petroleum laws to introduce them as a default process for awarding resource rights.

“Competitive bidding processes give countries the opportunity to have the most optimum investment offer for their petroleum blocks,” the report said.

Research conducted by ACEP has revealed that Cameroun, Ghana and Nigeria are yet to adopt an open and competitive bidding process for the award of oil and gas rights.