Activists say Parliament should not only accept the reports’ positive suggestions, but must also ensure that the finalised oil laws remove excessive ministerial control of the sector, improve transparency over key documents and give a voice to affected communities.
After several months collecting evidence and consulting with stakeholders, the Natural
Resources Committee of MPs has presented their reports on the draft oil laws to Parliament.
Parliament will now decide whether or not to accept the reports’ recommendations.
“This is a crucial moment for Uganda’s future. Whilst the oil sector has the potential to help lift millions out of poverty it also has the capacity to entrench poor governance trends and corruption,” said Winfred Ngabiirwe, the chairperson of the Publish What You Pay Coalition of CSOs.
“These new petroleum laws will decide on how oil is managed in Uganda for years to come, including how people and the environment will be protected and the kind of deal Uganda will get for its oil. In short, they will be crucial in dictating whether Uganda avoids the resource curse or not,” he added.
Civil society groups have previously called for substantive revisions to the draft laws to help prevent corruption and mismanagement in Uganda’s fledgling oil sector.
The Committee has also received submissions from industry and international experts which all identify weaknesses including excessive executive control, lack of parliamentary oversight, failure to guarantee transparency and best practice; and inadequate social and environmental controls.
“The Committee’s suggested changes do not go far enough to address the weaknesses in the current legislation,” said Henry Bazira, Executive Director of the Water Governance Institute and Chair of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil.
“Some of the proposed amendments, including the introduction of model contracts agreed by Parliament, will help ensure Uganda gets a good deal for its oil. However, we are concerned that areas highlighted in the submissions by all stakeholders, such as excessive executive control, seem to have been ignored.”
The groups argue that, even if the Government accepts the amendments to the legislation,
Ugandans are likely to be left with oil laws which put excessive control in the hands of the office of the Minister under the direct management of the President and continue to have deficiencies in other areas such as a failure to guarantee transparency of key documents or to consult with communities.
“Donors and the international community also have a strong vested interest in how Uganda’s most valuable mineral resource – its petroleum – is managed,” said George Boden a Campaigner at Global Witness.
“The country’s future prosperity and stability is at stake here. If the Government insists on passing legislation which enshrines conditions for corruption and miss-management then donor countries should ask serious questions about their continued assistance.”
The Public Finance Bill, which contains a section on petroleum revenue management, is currently with the Finance Committee in the Ugandan Parliament.
The activists further state this piece of legislation will be crucial in ensuring that revenue from the sector is managed and spent effectively, and that corruption and mismanagement is avoided.