By Francis Agbere, Extractive Industry Programme Manager, Oxfam in Ghana
This past summer, Ghana become the second country in Africa to guarantee beneficial ownership disclosure in the petroleum sector. As part of the bidding process for new oil fields, the new disclosure regulations require companies to release information on their ownership structure and on who will really benefit from exploiting Ghana’s natural resource wealth. This provision is a crucial step forward in the fight to reduce illicit financial flows that have cost Ghana billions of dollars.
Since the first crude left the Jubilee oil fields in 2010, civil society organizations tracking the extractive sector in Ghana channeled their energy into improving the governance of oil and gas projects. They campaigned to influence government policy and legislation to maximize petroleum benefits, to protect the public purse from pilfering. Activists and experts encouraged the government in Accra to adopt appropriate laws to guarantee Ghanaians can benefit from the petroleum wealth under their feet. This included plugging leaky beneficial ownership laws.
Unfortunately, in the short-term, the political expediency of profit took precedence over long-term development. Politicians capitalized on the public euphoria to expand drilling and promised that the pending oil money would be a panacea for all of Ghana’s problems. In the early days of the oil boom, Ghana paid little attention to the operations and structures of clandestine companies like the E.O. Group, which never opened a physical office in Ghana and allegedly helped facilitate corruption through its shadowy business arrangements. The recent release of the “West Africa leaks” shined a spotlight on the challenges of this period yet again.
Despite these challenges—and through painful, persistent and necessary active citizenship—Ghanaian civil society successfully pushed for beneficial ownership legislation. This effort shaped a promising new crop of laws and amendments, starting with the Companies Act of 2016, which requires companies to disclose their ownership structure. It has been heartening to see committed activism around illicit financial flows mature into campaigns that achieve concrete policy wins on beneficial ownership and contract disclosure.
Until recently, there was wide room for oil companies to evade tax through aggressive transfer pricing—by shifting costs offshore—as laws on the books did not require any disclosure of their ownership structure. Thankfully, these new rules have made this practice increasingly difficult and serve as an essential deterrent to these behaviors.
Now the challenge for civil society in Ghana is how to translate all of the data on beneficial ownership into real benefits for citizens, such as improved service delivery and strengthened economic development.
As an entry point, activists must coalesce around a new strand of work on illicit financial flows that is connected to more effective cost auditing in both the mining and petroleum sectors. Oil, gas and mining costs form the basis for tax assessment and collection, which in turn provides real benefits for citizens. But when costs are inflated or shifted to offshore companies, citizens lose out. Activists should use the data disclosed in Ghana’s beneficial ownership law to ensure costs and taxes are kept under scrutiny. New disclosures would help auditors clamp down on offshore profit shifting to better guarantee no money is left on the table.
However, this new legislation is unlikely to deliver real benefits if it is never enforced. Ghana’s new regulations are contingent on the discretion of the Minister of Energy. What happens if this discretion is never exercised or exercised in bad faith? The Minister of Energy, for example, controversially bypassed a competitive bidding process in favor of direct negotiation with U.S. supermajor ExxonMobil. Government and civil society should consider this impediment in future reviews to ensure that discretionary powers are not abused to give companies preferential treatment of hide shady ownership schemes. This might require an independent monitoring body, coupled with regular media attention, to ensure that the government discloses data in a timely way.
The benefits of ownership transparency should also extend to the mining sector. The government of Ghana committed to replicating the Petroleum Revenue Management Law in the mining sector in the form of a Mineral Revenue Management Law – an election promise that Oxfam and our partners are following up, by leading a campaign for its implementation. Progress in the petroleum sector, including the petroleum register which lists contracts on a public platform, is not reflected in the significantly older mining sector. As the government considers reviewing its mining codes this year, it should incorporate beneficial ownership requirements.
As Ghana continues to develop its oil and mining governance framework, the story remains quite chequered. New petroleum producers like Guyana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda should learn from our experiences—and mistakes—to develop early beneficial ownership provisions and ensure that their citizens reap the most from their resources. Recent progress on contract disclosure standards by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global anticorruption platform for the oil and mining industries, is a clear pointer that disclosure is an established global norm. The next step is turning all the data into real benefits.
This post originally appeared on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative blog in November 2018.
The EITI requires mining companies in implementing countries to report taxes and revenue payments made to the government in a standardised format. However, companies’ payments for the procurement of goods and services – in most cases the single largest in-country payment type by a mine site – are not systematically disclosed.
As a member of the Publish What You Pay Canada coalition, the Mining Shared Value initiative of Engineers Without Borders has long campaigned for transparency in natural resource management due to the benefits it creates for governance. Procurement spending by a single mine site is often in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year and yet to date, there has been no commonly accepted way of reporting on the issue.
We believe increased transparency around procurement payments can improve the ability of host governments and other stakeholders to harness such spending for economic and social development.
Therefore, we launched the Mining Local Procurement Reporting Mechanism (LPRM) just over a year ago in partnership with GIZ, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The Mining LPRM is a set of standardised disclosures that mine sites can use to provide information on their policies, programmes and results of local procurement. Structured similarly to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a given mine site is “in accordance” with the LPRM if it provides public information on all the required disclosures of the framework.
Our goals with the LPRM are to both increase the information on procurement so that host country suppliers, governments, and other institutions can better target supply opportunities, and to increase transparency on procurement policies and processes.
As detailed in the OECD’s Corruption in the Extractive Value Chain: Typology of Risks, Mitigation Measures and Incentives, procurement is one of many potential avenues for corruption in the extractive industries, such as the misuse of local content regulations that require purchasing from local suppliers of goods and services.
An example of this is the recent high-profile Petrobras scandal, where political appointees within the Brazilian state-owned oil company gave overpriced contracts to engineering firms in return for illicit party funding and bribes. In our work, we also regularly speak with mining companies who feel pressure to purchase from suppliers with connections to political elites.
As shown in the EITI’s brief released in March 2018, at least 24 implementing countries currently collect some information on local content in their reporting.
One of our goals with the Mining LPRM is to prevent stakeholders from having to “reinvent the wheel” when setting up their own measuring and reporting systems for local procurement. Rather than each EITI country collecting local procurement information in their own way, the Mining LPRM offers a standardisation tool. We recently released a brief discussing how EITI countries can use the Mining LPRM to collect data on mine site local procurement practices and results .
While the Mining LPRM was created in consultation with the mining industry, the set of standardised disclosures could easily be adapted to the oil and gas sector.
Local content is an issue in extractive industry governance that will continue to grow in prominence. We hope the Mining LPRM can help EITI countries collect the information they need to better target procurement opportunities and deter corruption related to this.
Procurement spending by most mine sites amounts to more than the mine pays in taxes, salaries and investments in the community combined. The more information we can make available to host countries on such a massive spend, the better.
Jeff Geipel is the founder and managing director of the Mining Shared Value initiative of Engineers Without Borders Canada, a Canadian non-profit that focuses on helping the mining sector and related stakeholders maximize local procurement of goods and services.
From Revenues to Benefits: New Nigeria Platform Informs and Empowers Extractives-Affected Communities
This post originally appeared on Natural Resource Governance Institute's blog in Dec. 2018.
It is almost one year to the day since the launch of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Revenues: Insights from New Company Disclosures, a NRGI briefing exploring how payment-to-governments data from Shell and six other international oil companies operating in Nigeria can be used to hold the government accountable for revenues generated from the sector.
To launch the briefing, in early 2018 NRGI, in partnership with Connected Development, co-hosted around 20 Nigerian civil society organizations (CSOs) in Abuja to explore new ways in which they could use this data in their pursuit of accountability.
One of the participants was Olusegun Elemo, executive director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), a Nigerian CSO that promotes citizen participation in the Nigerian public audit process and findings to foster leadership accountability, good governance and development of rural communities.
Prior to the workshop, Olusegun was not aware that international oil companies operating in Nigeria were required to disclose the payments they make to Nigerian government entities. But upon viewing the data, he instantly saw its value to inform and empower the rural communities PLSI supports.
Last month PLSI launched Resourcebenefits.ng, a new platform designed to enable extractive affected communities in Nigeria to understand the resource revenue their government entities receive and monitor its utilization for the development of their communities. This platform draws on payment-to-governments data collected, standardized and presented on Resourceprojects.org, NRGI’s data repository of disclosures made under EU, Canada and Norway mandatory disclosure regulations.
As well as presenting payment-to-governments data relevant to Nigerian rural communities, Resourcebenefits.ng has several interactive features designed to promote greater community engagement and accountability over extractive revenues. These include:
Olusegun Elemo stated that “Resourcebenefits.ng leverages on technology to communicate these data in the most creative and simplified form to empower Nigerian citizens with necessary information required to demand accountability from public officials and institutions on extractive revenues collected. PLSI sees these payments to governments data as the game changing addition to Nigeria’s extractive industries.”
The launch of Resourcebenefits.ng demonstrates the value of payment-to-governments data to citizens in resources-rich countries as an informational and accountability tool. It also reinforces the need for more work on the part of extractive companies, regulators in the EU, Canada and Norway and Publish What You Pay coalition members to increase the awareness of and accessibility to such data.
Alexander Malden is a governance associate with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).
By Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay - United Kingdom
This post originally appeared on PublishWhatYouPay.org on June 25, 2018
PWYP UK’s short practical multi-lingual guide to accessing 90 UK-based extractive companies’ payments to governments reports is available now in English, French and Spanish.
More than 90 oil, gas and mining companies incorporated in the United Kingdom or listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) now publish their reports on payments to governments each year under UK law every year. Forty more extractive companies report in other European Union countries, 700 in Canada and 8 in Norway. Equivalent reporting legislation awaits implementation in the United States. Similar laws have been drafted and proposed in Switzerland, Ukraine and Australia. The UK government has recently concluded a positive initial review of its payments to governments regulations.
Publish What You Pay has campaigned for years for laws requiring extractive companies to disclose their payments to governments worldwide, country by country and project by project, every year, as a complement to the EITI. Now that we have a growing body of public mandatory payment data, it would be good to increase our use of the data.
New two-page guide from PWYP UK
To help PWYP coalitions, member organisations and others in civil society access and use the 90-plus UK-based extractive companies’ payments to governments reports, PWYP UK has produced a short practical multi-lingual guide to accessing these reports. The two-page guide is available in English, French and Spanish, with links to UK-incorporated company reports here and UK-listed (London Stock Exchange) company reports here.
The guide shows how to access data on payments made to governments in 2015, 2016 and 2017 all over the world. Companies that have published their payments this way include Aggregate Industries/LafargeHolcim, Anglo American, Antofagasta, BHP Billiton, BP, China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec), Gazprom, Glencore, Lonmin, Lukoil, Premier Oil, Randgold, Rio Tinto, Rosneft, Royal Dutch Shell, Seplat, Soco, South32, Total, Tullow and Vedanta.
As well as explaining how to access reports via the two official UK web portals, the guide also briefly explains NRGI’s www.resourceprojects.org portal. This provides access to mandatory payment data published across the EU (including in the UK) and in Canada and Norway.
Why should civil society access the reports and use the data?
Payments to governments reporting helps deter and prevent corruption and fiscal mismanagement. Companies that are required to publish their payments are less likely to enter into corrupt or questionable deals with governments. Governments are less likely to mismanage the revenues knowing that the money received is publicly reported.
Civil society can achieve more by understanding and publicising the payments made and reported by companies in particular countries and for specific projects. Knowledge empowers. If we detect surprising or questionable payments, we can call for the government and company involved to explain. We can use the data to help citizens and local communities judge if individual oil, gas or mining projects are good value and to demand accountability for how each government spends the money. This includes judging whether a project’s public revenues and how they are spent compensate fairly for negative social and environmental impacts at national or subnational level.
Fiscal transparency is also potentially a step towards greater transparency and accountability for extractive industry impacts on livelihoods, human rights and the environment. If we can also achieve full beneficial ownership disclosure and contract transparency (better still, open contracting) – as well as disclosure of payments to governments for the first sale oil, gas and minerals (commodity trading) – we will be well on the way to opening up the extractive sector.
The UK government, the European Commission and others have asked civil society for evidence that payments to governments reports really do help improve extractive industry governance and ultimately citizens’ lives. The more we can make this happen and demonstrate it is happening, the more secure will be the political achievement of opening up extractive company payments and government revenues to public scrutiny.
Data-based advocacy partnerships
Building on its 2016 Data Extractors project, PWYP UK is interested in working with other PWYP coalitions and members around the world to analyse payments and conduct data-based advocacy focused on UK-based extractive companies’ transparency reports. To discuss possible collaboration, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in English, French or Spanish.
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