Civil Society Group wants UK to Disclose Oil Deals

2136 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Uganda's oil exploration continues to be shrouded in secrecy even as production is set to begin

A civil society coalition wants the British government to force Tullow Oil to publish details of every single penny it has paid to government in the ongoing oil exploration in Uganda.

The group, calling itself Publish What You Pay Uganda, in a letter to British Prime Minister, David Cameron, says the United Kingdom should pass laws requiring oil and mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to publish their payments to governments of the countries where they operate.

Tullow Oil, whose subsidiary Tullow Oil Uganda is prospecting for oil in western Uganda, is listed on the London Stock Market.

Winfred Ngabiirwe, a member of the coalition which comprises over fifty civil society groups, says the March 11th letter wants the UK to follow the US government that has already made a law requiring oil and mining companies listed on its stock markets to publish their payments to governments. 

Ngabiirwe says says publishing the information would ensure more transparency in governing oil and mineral revenues.

// Cue In: As publish what …

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Government tabled the oil production sharing agreement before Parliament in June last year but members of parliament were asked to keep the deals secret. Some of the tabled agreements had been signed in March 1991 but kept secret.

Tullow Uganda General Manager, Brian Glover has in the past indicated that they were willing to make public the Production Sharing Agreements. Energy Minister, Hillary Onek has however insisted the agreements should remain secret to guard both parties’ financial interests. 

The Uganda government and Tullow Oil Uganda this month singed a memorandum of understanding after Tullow agreed to pay over 460 million dollars arising from Tullow’s acquisition of Heritage Oil stake in two oil fields.

The understanding finally allowed Tullow to kick-off its 10-billion-dollar oil development project in the Albertine Graben.

Tullow Oil Uganda is now in negotiation with China’s China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the French oil giant Total to form a consortium in the exploratin of the discovered oil.

Ngabiirwe says says there are still unexplained issues even around the new memorandum between government and Tullow. 

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Ngabiirwe fears that the money from oil may turn may turn out to be a bonanza for few a government officials if the contents of oil agreements remain secret.

Stephen Mukitale, the Bulisa County MP says the civil society groups in the country should refocus the debate on oil from just the production sharing agreements to pressing legal and policy issues as the country prepares to move to next step in her oil development.

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Mukitale, in whose constituency vast amounts of oil has been discovered, says more effort should be invested in preparing and  positioning Ugandans on how to benefit for the oil industry.