There are two types of disclosures. One is disclosure for the sake of transparency, while the other is disclosure that actually works for the people it is intended to help. Ensuring the latter is the philosophy Bantay Kita has applied to its engagement with natural resources data.
When the Philippine's Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PHEITI) Country Report was first published in 2014, an incredible amount of data was made available to the public. As a civil society representative to the PHEITI Multi Stakeholder Group, Bantay Kita was tasked with making sure that the data was used to facilitate greater accountability.
On July 2016, Bantay Kita soft launched its DATA Portal - short for Demanding Action, Transparency, and Accountability Portal. The portal was conceptualized in Jakarta, Indonesia during the first Publish What You Pay Data Extractors Program workshop, and later brought to life in the second Data Extractors workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe.
How much did it cost? $0
What programming language was used? I'm not even sure - I don't know a single one.
How long did it take to make the prototype? Minus the snack breaks and random Facebook checking, about four hours.
All it really took was some creativity and a handful of free web tools, which can be learned by users in 1 to 6 hours, depending on the person’s willingness to learn.
The DATA Portal is community-targeted, hence it uses project-level, provincial and regional data related to oil, gas and mining extraction. Data was analyzed from the Philippine EITI Country Report and other sources, such as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
The portal includes data for all 18 administrative regions in the Philippines. Each "Regional Page" has subpages for its Extractive Projects Database, News about Extractives, and Extractives Statistics. On top of this, there are "Company Pages" where data for individual projects can be found, such as production numbers, government payments, employee demographics, social and environmental spending, community demographics, poverty incidence, transparency measure, and so on.
There are digital metric tons of data available on extractives, but not all are relevant to specific communities. Since our soft launching in July, we have been traveling the Philippines to conduct open data workshops and collect locally translated versions of "data user templates." We ask local CSOs to fill them out, with a specific advocacy goal they are working on in mind, and ask what kind of data would best help them to influence decision makers and other stakeholders to support their advocacy goal. This makes the data we produce not only specific to a certain community, but also relevant to them.
What's quite unique about the DATA Portal is that it's not simply a box full of big datasets and tables of data, but rather data visualizations and infographics to make the information easier to understand. This makes the the numbers less intimidating (especially for those traumatized by college algebra).
The next step for the DATA Portal is to make Action and Accountability happen. To that end, we hope to begin to provide communities with quarterly data - production and sales - disclosed by extractive companies through SMS. Since most taxes and royalties are based on sales, this information will enable local communities to estimate what subnational transfers from mining activities their communities should receive, and thus enable them to plan for the following year. This information can also be used by indigenous peoples’ organizations that receive royalties. Though schedule of payments can vary, at a minimum these disclosures will allow communities to validate the accuracy of the received funds.
Making a difference takes more than making data open. Stakeholders need to make these disclosures relevant to communities to actually make an impact. Through our DATA Portal, Bantay Kita hopes to do just that.
Marco Zaplan is the Research and Communications Officer for Bantay Kita. Follow him @zaplanmarco
By Jana Morgan, Director, Publish What You Pay - United States
This post originally appeared on the 2016 International Open Data Conference blog on October 5, 2016
2016 is an historic year for transparency advocates and data geeks alike.
After fourteen years of campaigning by the global Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition, laws requiring oil, gas and mining companies to publicly disclose project-level payments to governments for access to natural resources are now in force in over 30 countries. This means we will know how much each covered company paid in royalties, taxes, fees, and other vital information for every project in every country of operation.
Too often, natural resource wealth has served to enrich corrupt corporate execs and political elites, while the owners of those natural resources - citizens - have been left footing the bill for environmental destruction, community displacements, and lost economic opportunities. These reports present a treasure trove of information for advocacy groups, data scientists, journalists and citizens. Now, they can dig deep into oil, gas and mining data that was previously shrouded in secrecy.
In fact, some of the world’s largest extractive companies either listed or incorporated in the European Union, like Shell (UK), BP (UK), Total (France), Statoil (Norway) and Rio Tinto (UK), have already published their first reports. We can expect reporting from Canadian listed/incorporated companies in 2017; with the bulk of US-listed company reports disclosed in 2019.
Transparency advocates are beginning the hard work of sifting through this newly released data, and have already begun asking important questions like:
At Publish What You Pay – United States (PWYP-US), we launched a website in June – Extract-A-Fact – with the intention of empowering citizens, activists and journalists to harness oil, gas, and mining data and use it as a tool to demand accountability from governments and extractive companies. Extract-A-Fact does this by providing training modules detailing useful and creative ways to find, analyze, and visualize extractives data, as well as blog posts from PWYP-US and our partners as we dig deeper into oil, gas, and mining sector data to answer questions critical to communities impacted by natural resources.
Over the past year, other important initiatives and tools have sprung up across the globe:
These new initiatives are already empowering activists to demand accountability for how their country’s natural resources are managed. But civil society groups are not the only actors who recognize the importance of these disclosures. Recently, the law firm Holland & Knight (citing research done by a PWYP Data Extractor) wrote that payment transparency could lead to increased voluntary Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) disclosures, aid law-enforcement officials in investigating possible FCPA violations, and have a deterrent effect on corruption.
This new era in extractives transparency is why I am so excited for IODC 2016. If you believe that a country’s natural resources belong to the citizens who live there, and that profits made from those resources should be used to benefit those people, rather than swell the pockets of corrupt government officials and shady executives – let’s talk. I want to work with you to brainstorm ways we can fight corruption by translating this data into accountability.
Interested to know more? Follow us on twitter - @pwypusa @janalmorgan @pwyptweets #ExtractAFact #NoSecretDeals
The Aleph search tool, built and maintained by OpenOil, is a vast database of public documents filed by oil, gas, and mining companies in some of the biggest legal jurisdictions in the world. Aleph gives us access to millions of documents all in one place that we can search by content, but finding the exact information we want can seem intimidating. The folks at OpenOil have provided some good resources for getting started with Aleph; find them here and here. In this blog post, I will help make navigating this system even easier by providing a step by step guide on how to automatically have the information you are most interested in delivered from Aleph straight to your inbox.
At PWYP-US, we are particularly interested in (and excited about) the payments to governments reports that oil, gas, and mining companies listed on EU stock exchanges have recently disclosed. Major companies like BP, Shell, and BHP Billiton have all published reports for 2015. As more and more reports come online, there is a possibility that some may slip through the cracks. Luckily, Aleph has a search tool that can let you know when any new filings become available.
The first step is to navigate to aleph.openoil.net and register for an account.
Once that is done, on the home page click on “Alerts” in the upper right-hand corner. You should see this screen:
Click “Add” to set up a new alert.
You now have two fields to populate, “Query” and “Label”.
The “Query” field is what Aleph will use to search the database. Aleph has some advanced searching capabilities, which you can read about in depth here. We are going to use the composite querying function.
Setting up an alert for new payments to governments reports
If you want to find documents related to payments to governments reports, searching “payments to governments” is a little too imprecise. We need to get more specific .
The payments to governments reports are mandated by law, and as such, have a specific form name in each legal jurisdiction.
So, let’s construct a query that will cover all of these:
"Article L. 225-102-3" OR "DTR 4.3A" OR "Section 1504" OR "13q-1"
Add that to “Query” under your new alert and give it a name under “Label”. Select whether you want to be updated daily or weekly, then hit submit.
And there you have it!
Aleph will now automatically update you via email on any new documents that fit the conditions you outlined in your query. Currently, the London Stock Exchange is the only jurisdiction from which Aleph pulls filings that require payments to government reports. However, the first mandatory disclosure reports will be released in Canada next year, and in the United States beginning in 2018. Including Section 1504 and the French article number may mean you get notifications that don’t contain actual mandatory disclosure reports, but making your search somewhat broad ensures that if a company filing, an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative report, or contract mentions any of the search terms, you will be notified.
*Note: Running this query we noted that using "13q-1" occasionally returned results that were not relevant. However, these should be minimal, and including "13q-1" ensures a more robust query than only using "Section 1504".
Tommy Morrison is a Research Assistant at PWYP-US, follow us on Twitter @pwypusa
Accessing Aleph’s wealth of information requires a certain understanding of how to best use the search engine. While we are working hard to make the two million documents inside Aleph as easy to search across as possible, I have already provided many examples in a previous blog for why you should…
1) Be exact when selecting search terms
2) Narrow down search results
3) Use Aleph to find the particular, and not the common
4) Use the language of companies
5) Be creative and playful
Here I would like to add to this list of tips and tricks, highlight new features of Aleph’s latest release and suggest a few more interesting search examples. So let me continue with…
6) Sorting by filing date
The latest release of Aleph allows you to sort any given search result by “relevance”, “newest” and “oldest”. We chose “relevance” to be the default, which is defined by both the number of search matches inside a document and its respective filing date. Yet there are many scenarios in which you might want to find the most recent document. Let’s say, you are interested in the latest on the Jubilee field in Ghana: a quick search for the name of the project – sorted by newest – will allow you to find out about recent production figures, planed infrastructure developments in nearby blocks, and even gross sales volumes for the past months.
7) Filtering by company or filing type
If we now assume you are only interested in a particular company, it is helpful to filter Aleph’s search result to only contain documents from that company. Let’s say, you want to read on only one of Jubilee’s shareholders, Kosmos Energy. All you have to do is click on the “company facet” on the right sidebar and select Kosmos from the total list of all the companies, for which Aleph stores documents with your search terms. If this still doesn’t bring you to what you are searching for, for example Kosmos’ latest annual report (10-K filing), try filtering by filing type as well. In order to so, you should keep in mind however, that filing type names not only vary between the different stock exchanges, but also from year to year. In other words, keep an eye on the different ways a filing type can be named.
8) Continue to search within documents
Another tip on making best use of Aleph is to continue searching within documents. This new feature is made possible by Aleph’s in-build document viewer, that loads once you open a particular search result. For example, if you have identified a document that matches your interest – let’s stick to the example of Kosmos’ annual report: how do you now find what is of interest to you within the document? Let’s say, you want to know which corporate risks Kosmos had mentioned? Well… all you have to do is type it into searchbar at the right corner, which will direct you to the several mentions of risks, and in particular to the so-called risks section. This particular method allows you to put your initial findings into the context of a document.
9) Keep it simple
Last but not least, you should keep in mind that Aleph only shows up documents with exact matches to your query. If there is a typo in your query, for example, Aleph will not lead you to what you are looking for. Also, Aleph is not designed to be a google alternative, where you can enter a “what are the gold reserves of Ghana?” type question. Instead, keep it simple. Put in the terms “gold”, “reserves”and “Ghana” and Aleph will point you to the resource and reserve statements of all listed companies, that are active in Ghana.
When keeping these tips and tricks in mind, however, you will be surprised about what you are going to find.
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