The Ugandan draft oil law: A search in vain for accountability and democratic oversight

22 Feb 2012 admin

Platform has released a new briefing analysing Uganda’s draft “Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill”

The report – entitled “The Ugandan Upstream oil law: A search in vain for accountability and democratic oversight”, highlights the lack of parliamentary oversight, transparency, or consultation or involvement of affected communities in the proposed oil law. At the same time, the Bill does include clauses that restrict information flow and could potentially threaten or close down public debate.

Oversight and accountability to Parliament of these activities is virtually nil. The only provisions for dialogue with Parliament are that the annual report & accounts of the Petroleum Authority will be submitted to Parliament, and that the Authority will submit an annual statement detailing the monies received from royalties.

This is insufficient to ensure effective governance. Moreover, the Bill does not guarantee Parliament any leverage or the ability to demand answers.

Good practice requires that contracts and petroleum production licenses be approved by Parliament, and listed in parliamentary registers. It is unclear why such procedures are not being followed here.

The Bill fails to guarantee wider transparency. The only commitments are general, ie the Minister shall be “promoting and sustaining transparency in the oil and gas sector” and the Authority “ensure transparency in relation to the activities of the petroleum sector and the Authority”. There is a clause to make information available to the public, although it remains at the discretion of the Minister. Given the past experience of Ugandan government attempts to hinder transparency, such commitments remain unpromising without clear and detailed commitments. This is especially so given the restrictions on the publication of data, and the lack of protection for whistle-blowers highlighting wrong-doing.

There is a crucial lack of consultation and involvement of affected communities, or the public as a whole. Although there are a few references to time-periods during which communities can submit objections, this does not equate to the active consultation processes necessary for actual consent. Moreover, there are very limited opportunities for communities to input anyhow, e.g. into petroleum production licenses.

Some of the clauses relating to “offences” have been formulated so that they are vague and general enough that they threaten future public debate on these issues, by creating the potential for a clampdown on those attempting to shine light and share material.

Download the full analysis.

Download the Draft Oil Bill on which this analysis is based – dated 28th October 2011.

Past Platform reports on Uganda include “‘Contracts Curse: Uganda’s oil agreements place profit before people”

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