Today I was privileged to be part of the conference organized by Global Rights Alert and Oil in Uganda on Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – EITI a mechanism that fosters transparency amongst oil companies and oil producing countries. This is meant to create an avenue where the people of a given country see through the oil revenue and proceeds in a transparent manner that creates no suspicions or even could turn out to be a source of conflict in any country where transparency has lacked.
This conference opened by the remarks from the Vice Chairman of the committee on oil Hon. Michael Mawanda of Igara West MP also Member of Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG) who invited the Hon. Peter Lokeris, Minister of State for Mineral Development. And in his words; “This conference comes at the right time when government is preparing to enact more laws to regulate the oil sector. Transparency is key in making sure the oil sector moves in the right direction.”
Uganda estimates to have more 3.5 billion barrels and US$0.2 billion so far has been invested in the oil sector. According the existing legislation, Uganda is expected to start a national oil company but there is fear that the process of the company is not on the table yet transactions are being carried out.
There is fear that the oil proceeds will be all kept in the consolidated fund, where taxpayers’ money has never been safe at least not when the president of Uganda still harbors strong financial indiscipline towards taxpayer’s money. The Minister of Finance Hon. Maria Kiwanuka reviewed that the proceeds of oil will be sent to the consolidated fund as she made her remarks and presented on Government’s preparedness for transparency in the oil sector. As a citizen I may ask what grantee I have if the president raided the consolidated fund in the past and went ahead to purchase jet fighters without the approval of Parliament.
There are more fears that Uganda Revenue Authority has already collected over 3 billion Uganda Shillings from the oil proceeds and it was sent to Bank of Uganda, but this money has not been talked about, you remember during the State of the Nation Address of 2013, the president reiterated that money is available from our oil proceeds and the government will go ahead to fund the construction of Karuma dam even if there was no donor aid money.
As Minister Lokeris laboured to convince the conference how prepared government was in matters of transparency and accountability in the oil sector, then Minister Maria Kiwanuka dropped the glass that she cannot confirm on the dates when government will decide on becoming a member of EITI. Then came Lokeris; we have to go slow because we don’t want to make mistakes. Government estimates that Uganda will have its first barrel from the ground come 2017. But when you listen to the minister of finance and the one of energy seems there are mixed signals and there is no information sharing between the two ministries.
The question can be still be posed if there is institution capacity in the oil sector than how will the government of Uganda do business and the same time be transparent to its citizens?