Why Stakeholders Are Ecstatic About Uganda’s EITI Ambition

Uganda becoming a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a development stakeholders hope will bring about accountability in the management of natural resources – particularly the extractives sector.

The move is also expected to deal with the secrecy government has shown when dealing with oil and gas companies and mining companies. The decision for Uganda to make the EITI membership was announced On Monday the 28th January, 2019, after cabinet approval.

Government spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, said accession of Uganda to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is intended to improve the revenue collection process and boost public finances and minimise oil, gas and mining revenues being mismanaged or lost to corruption.

“The country will benefit through improved investment climate by giving a clear signal to investors and international financial institutions that the government is committed to improving transparency, which in turn can lead to increased investment in the country,” Mr Opondo said.

The weekly Independent Magazine quotes the executive director of Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Dr. Earnest Rubondo, saying that they are bound by the EITI requirements. He committed that it will not be hard for the Authority to ensure accountability and Transparency as per the EITI requirements.

In another report, the Independent reported that the Head of European Union Mission in Uganda, H.E. Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, had commended Uganda’s EITI decision explaining that the move is a critical step in promoting transparency. "This decision is a crucial step for improved accountability as the country prepares for oil production,” H.E. Amb. Pacifici said.

Stakeholders have been urging the country to take up EITI membership will no positive response from government. This brought restlessness in the sector as government continued to negotiate key contracts will oil and mining companies to explore and produce the country’s natural resources.

In 2015, Global Rights Alert (GRA), a human rights- civil society organization based in Kampala, launched ‘Our Oil Our Future’ campaign to encourage the government of Uganda to improve transparency in the governance of oil and other mineral resources by signing onto the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

The campaign sought to collect 1000 signatures from the public with each signature petitioning President Yoweri Museveni to subscribe to EITI so that the government and oil companies open up on their transaction to allow citizens follow the transactions. The campaign flopped as it was ignored by government.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Standard guides countries in setting up effective mechanisms so that citizens can know what companies are paying to government, and what government officially receives from companies.

At the launch of campaign, Ms. Winfred Ngabiirwe, the executive director of GRA, in an interview explained that once the public is able to trace the money exchanging hands between government and companies, Ugandans are able to monitor and know if they are getting the services they deserve.

Four years later, and a series of continued lobbying from civil society and government agencies like finance ministry and Auditor General’s office, government is opening up to the idea of the public monitoring its dealing with usually powerful and usually international companies.

This has been received well by civil society and public. In an ecstatic statement released shortly after government announcing the decision for Uganda to join EITI, the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas in Uganda (CSCO) and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) described accession of Uganda to EITI as a milestone towards achieving transparency and accountability in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

They said the accession will improve investment climate, improve revenue collection, minimize corruption and promote accountability. The initiative requires governments and companies to publish and reconcile data on oil, gas and mining revenues.

“According to the National Planning Authority (NPA) as highlighted in the National Development Plan 2 (NDP II), revenues from oil, gas and mining are projected to play a pivotal role in steering the country’s economic growth to a middle income status. Efforts such as the EITI mechanism which are geared towards transparency and accountability in the extractives industry will go a long way in ensuring that Ugandans optimize the benefits from these natural resources,” the CSOs said in a joint statement.

Finance minister Hon. Matia Kasaija commented that the decision to join EITI was informed by appreciation of the values that EITI promotes in regard to disclosure of information in the extractive sector. “Initiatives such as EITI that emphasise transparency have the potential to strengthen the efforts of government in ensuring overall transparency in the sector, strengthen tax collection, improve investment climate, build trust and create long-lasting value of petroleum resources,” Kasaija said.

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