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Congress Hears Pleas For Revenue Transparency in Africa's Mining, Oil Sectors

From Sudan to the Niger Delta, many of Africa’s thorniest conflicts continue to defy solution, due to governments’ reluctance to adjust revenues returned to the regions which produce the resources. A coalition of US advocacy groups is urging Congress to consider additional steps to boost revenue transparency in oil, gas, and mining projects. Ian Gary, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America, told a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee last week that new legislation which would require disclosure of payments from the extractive industry sectors of foreign economies could reduce corruption and enhance poverty reduction in resource-rich countries. He explains why his coalition is fighting for greater disclosure.

“Whether we’re talking about diamonds in Sierra Leone or oil in the Niger Delta or in Sudan, a lot of the gas and mining in Africa has been kept secret, and that has fueled suspicion and corruption, which has been a major source of conflict on the continent,” he said.

To bring greater transparency to money derived from extractive industries, Ian Gary says the Publish What You Pay Coalition (PWYP), which includes Oxfam America, Global Witness, and the Revenue Watch Institute, is recommending a two-track approach.

“The Congressional interest at this hearing showed in possibly regulating companies so that they would be required to disclose these payments to host governments. The other side of the coin is for host governments to require disclosure and to publish on a regular basis the amount of money they are receiving from companies investing in their country, and just getting that basic information is a big hurdle. And that once that information is known, making sure that all the oil revenues or all the diamond revenues make it into the national budget, and that the budget process is open, and that citizens and civil society groups, church groups, and others have a way to influence the choices that are being made,” Gary suggested.

Since 2002, a voluntary mechanism for resource revenue transparency, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has received US backing, but only a few of Africa’s resource-rich countries have moved toward public disclosure.

“What we hope is that a mandatory disclosure regime can capture a bigger group of companies and that more countries will see it as the standard for doing business to disclose this type of information. We’re hoping that Congress will add to the momentum, creating new rules of the road for these extractive industries,” he said.