Ghana’s latest contract with ExxonMobil Corp for oil exploration in the Deepwater Cape Three Points offshore (DWCTP) oilfield is going to add to a growing list of oil and gas contracts that have been shielded from the public – due to the non-existence of a ‘Petroleum Register’ as required by law, Prof. John Gatsi of the University of Cape Coast has said.
The economist said there is no excuse for why the register has not been created, two years into passage of the Petroleum Act 2016.
The petroleum register, he explained, is an accountability check and a pointer of disclosure and transparency; and not putting it in place would mean that contracts such as the one signed with ExxonMobil might not see the light of day.
Prof. Gatsi, who was speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a workshop for journalists in Koforidua, urged government and the Petroleum Commission to ensure that the register is put in place.
He said this should be done in addition to the other regulation that is needed for the enhanced enforcement or operationisation of the entire (Exploration and Production) Act 919, given that Ghana continues to expand its petroleum activities.
The Act states that: “The Commission shall establish and maintain a register of petroleum agreements, licences, permits, and authorisations as prescribed”.
Addressing members of the Institute of Finance and Economic Journalists (IFEJ) at a forum to review and interrogate PIAC’s 2017 Half-Year Annual Report, Prof. Gatsi noted that there cannot be effective petroleum management if citizens are not active in demanding accountability.
He said accountability is such that there are demand and supply aspects, in view of which he charged Ghanaians to hold duty-bearers accountable for effective utilisation and management of the country’s petroleum resources.
‘Best deal yet’
Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko, speaking at the signing of the ExxonMobil agreement last week, described it as one of the best – based on lessons from the country’s past ten years of producing oil.
The contract was signed following a direct negotiation between Ghana and Exxon Mobil without an open competitive tender.
The nature of the negotiation has led to calls for the contract to be made open. However, some commentators fear the full details of the agreement will not be made public, since the register of petroleum contracts has not been created for Ghanaians to know and understand the terms under which the agreement was signed as well as the benefits thereof.