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Uganda Opposition Bemoans Lack of Transparency in Oil Industry

  • Peter Clottey

The minority leader in Uganda’s parliament says President Yoweri Museveni’s government has not been transparent in handling the prospecting for oil ahead of the administration’s proposed law to manage the country’s oil industry.

Professor Ogenga Latigo said opposition parliamentarians are concerned that government officials have hijacked the lucrative oil sector for their own benefit and to the detriment of the entire country.

“We as the opposition are extremely concerned about the way the government of Uganda and President Yoweri Museveni is handling the oil issue. We are dealing with a government that is extremely corrupt and there is no way that we can believe that all the agreements with their defects are not probably done deliberately to ensure that individuals and the people in power benefit from these sales,” he said.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

This comes after Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), a U.S.-based think tank group, reportedly said the government’s proposed law lacks provisions for competitive bidding for oil exploration and production licenses which it said allows for direct applications to be made to Uganda’s energy minister without any more scrutiny.

President Museveni’s government is scheduled to present a proposed Petroleum law to the country’s legislature that will enable the resumption of oil exploration.

But opposition leader Latigo said the government took unilateral decisions without consulting parliament.

“I can tell you this, much of the lucrative oil concessions have already been given…I can assure the people of Uganda that we will do our best and we will fight to ensure that first there is transparency. Secondly, that nothing is left out of that law, including taxation, and thirdly that the benefit of the oil industry, when developing Uganda, will reach the common Ugandan,” Latigo said.

In 2006, Uganda struck commercial quantities of oil reserve, which experts estimate is over two billion barrels. The oil find is located along the country’s border with neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

But President Museveni’s government suspended licensing in 2007, saying it wanted to first put in place robust legislation for the petroleum sector.

Supporters have rejected allegations of corruption often leveled against government officials and have challenged the opposition to provide evidence of the administration’s alleged complicity in the oil sector.

Supporters say the government is putting in place structures to ensure transparency and fairness so that Ugandans will benefit from the oil revenue.

But, Opposition leader Latigo said the government has resisted all suggestions that will ensure transparency in Uganda’s growing oil sector.