CSOs want EITI principles to be enacted into a local law
CSOs’ argument is based on the voluntary nature of EITI principles and therefore there is need for legally binding local framework with sanctions for non-compliance.
A section of civil society organisations wants Uganda’s government to enact Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) principles into a local law. In an open letter dated August 12, 2019 and addressed to the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED), Hon. Matia Kasaija – in whose docket EITI falls, civil society organisations argue that since EITI principles on transparency and accountability are voluntary, there is need to translate them into a legally binding local law with sanctions for non- compliance.
“Government has set October 2019 as the month in which the country will formally apply to join the EITI. However, while we appreciate government’s efforts to join EITI, we note with grave concern that events taking place in the country today show that government is not ready to join and make proper use of the EITI,” a letter signed by 15 civil society organisations reads in part.
In their letter, CSOs argue that there are many cases that show lack of commitment to transparency on part of government including failure to implement relevant laws such as the 2015 Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Since the enactment of the PFMA in 2015, government has continued to violate its provisions on transparency and accountability with impunity, CSOs claim. The PFMA provides for the collection, management and utilisation of Uganda’s oil revenues in a transparent and accountable manner.
“In the presence of such abuses, it is clear that unless fundamental reforms in government are undertaken as part of the EITI process, there is little hope, if any, that joining EITI will help address the problems of lack of transparency and accountability for Uganda’s oil revenues,” the letter reads.
For instance, the Shs 6 billion reward paid to 42 government officials for their participation in the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) negotiations and engagements against Tullow Oil in Landon – popularly known as the ‘Presidential handshake’ is a clear illustration of wasteful expenditures. In addition, government has since not fully implemented the recommendations from the report on Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprise (COSASE) that investigated the reward.
“Such a government cannot be trusted to comply with EITI principles which are voluntary. An executive that refuses to be held accountable and disrespects parliamentary decisions is unlikely to comply with EITI principles,” CSOs argue in their open letter.
The letter adds, “This non-compliance with a binding law creates suspicion that government will not respect and comply with the EITI principles which are voluntary,” the letter reads in part.
“Government should ensure that after joining EITI, an EITI bill is tabled before parliament to enact an EITI law in Uganda. To enable compliance to the EITI law, the law should provide for formation of a multi-stakeholder committee with representatives from government, CSOs, cultural leaders, religious leaders, academics and the private sector. The committee should among other things be the overall overseer of the Petroleum Fund, the Petroleum Investment Fund and should be responsible for the selection of development projects to be funded with oil revenues. The law should provide that the decisions of the committee are binding on government,” the letter reads.
Ntegyereize Gard Benda, the Chairperson Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Uganda chapter concurs. “The only sanction that the EITI provides is a suspension which may not matter to government. Therefore, it is important that we have domestic safeguards in terms of a law to compliment the voluntary EITI principles,” Benda argues.
By: Edward Ssekika
Edited by Muhumuza Didas