An international governance watchdog group says Ghana is to be
commended for keeping contracts in the oil industry transparent to the
public. Observers hope the move will help spread the wealth from an
anticipated oil boom.
Revenue Watch Institute, a non-profit
institute that promotes responsible resource management, says Ghana is
keeping its promise to make public current and future contracts in the
Industry analysts in Africa say the promise will
go a long way in helping the public understand what can be expected of
the oil companies and their own government.
"We thought that
that was a very important step, and if we live by that promise, it will
not only ensure that the citizens will not only have detailed
information about what is contained in these contracts, but it will
also enable the citizens to be able to hold the government accountable
for its promise," said Emmanuel Kuyole, Africa regional coordinator for
New York-based Revenue Watch.
Kuyole says the disclosure will
also allow institutions like Parliament to play a supervisory role,
ensuring revenues are properly utilized.
Ghana is poising
itself for an oil boom after British and American companies discovered
offshore deposits in 2007. The companies say the Jubilee field, named
for its discovery during the celebration of Ghana's 50th year of
independence, may contain as many as one billion barrels of crude oil.
says Ghana hopes to avoid the experiences of neighboring countries
including Nigeria, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea, which he says have
suffered from rampant corruption since their own oil finds.
of these countries have the contracts available to the public. The
indication that contracts are going to be made to the public is in
itself a bold step," he said.
Kuyole hopes civil society group
and local communities in Ghana will now be motivated to push an agenda
of environmental and social responsibility from both government and oil
"If the communities are not involved, or even if
they are and do not have detailed information regarding what
commitments have been made, especially in issues regarding compensation
but also around respect for environment, around livelihood and so on,
we know that part of the challenge, apart from management of the
revenues, are issues regarding development and issues regarding
environmental and social impact," said Kuyole.
Ghana, which is a
leading producer of cocoa, hopes a profitable oil sector will add to
its relatively strong export sector. Ghana's mining industry has also
historically been among the most important in Africa.
January, Ghana celebrated democratic elections in which the opposition
candidate, John Atta-Mills, won the presidency by a narrow margin.