Civil Society and Oil and Gas Governance in Ghana
In 2007 commercially viable quantities of oil and gas were discovered in Ghana. The estimated revenue of the oil reserves is about $1 billion per year (approximately EUR 768 million), which is similar to the amount of development assistance received by Ghana annually. As is often said, natural resources can be both a curse and a blessing. When managed well, they can boost development and foster economic growth. Oversight bodies such as parliaments, media and civil society organisations (CSOs) have a pivotal role to play in ensuring proper management of natural resources.
At the end of January, Renée Zandvliet, working with EuropeAid’s 'Civil Society and Local Authorities' unit, visited the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Ghana and met with several representatives from CSOs. As a contribution to knowledge sharing, she decided to share with us some of what she learnt during her trip.
Consecutive governments in Ghana have emphasised the importance of transparency and accountability in the management of oil and gas and the revenue these generate. However, these governments were also pushed to quickly develop a legislative and policy framework to be implemented before actual production would start in 2010.
CSOs can play an important role in promoting sound management of oil and gas resources and mitigating negative social-economic, political and environmental impacts. They can facilitate involvement of grassroots communities; assess and monitor the impact of extraction; and hold key players (including in the government and the private sector) accountable. However, when oil and gas were discovered in 2007 few Ghanaian CSOs had specific experience or expertise in this regard.
In order to develop their capacity to engage on oil and gas issues at different levels, CSOs created the Ghana Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas. The platform currently comprises about 120 organised groups, individuals and professional bodies (including community based organisations, faith based groups, research institutions, gender based groups, trade unions, etc.) working toward ensuring transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry in Ghana. The platform focuses on strengthening the ability of civil society to have their voices heard on oil and gas legislation, revenue collection and environmental protection.
Depending on their expertise (e.g. budgetary issues, revenue tracking, human rights, environment), member organisations take the lead on specific activities to be carried out, with others lending their support. In addition, some activities are carried out by the platform at national level, particularly with regard to national advocacy, such as the development of policy briefs.
For example, in 2011 the platform issued a 'Readiness Report Card' which evaluated the performance of the government in managing the challenges of the emerging oil sector and drew attention to issues needing immediate action. The report evaluated ten dimensions of government performance, such as transparency, independent regulation of the sector, licensing and contracting, citizen participation/public oversight, budget openness/public financial management and social and environmental issues. It did not only consider the role of the Government of Ghana, but also that of the Parliament of Ghana, Ghana's donor partners, oil and gas companies, and civil society itself.
CSOs also sit on and actively contribute to the Public Interest and Accountability Committee which is responsible for monitoring and reporting on oil and gas revenues. The findings of this Committee have made an important contribution to public debates on this issue. Moreover, through consultations, concrete proposals and presentations to the Parliamentary Committee on Energy, CSOs were successful in influencing the drafting of an important renewable energy bill and a petroleum revenue management act. They are also monitoring the implementation of the latter act and raising awareness and holding the government to account for cases of infringement.
The secretariat of the Platform is hosted by the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), which also serves as the Ghanaian branch of Publish What You Pay. ISODEC's Campaigns Coordinator and Chair of the Platform, Mr. Steve Manteaw, stresses the importance of tax-related issues in relation to the oil and gas sector, explaining that the Platform is a member of the Tax Justice Network Coalition:
"The objective of the tax justice campaign in Ghana is that companies demonstrate their corporate social responsibility not through the construction of projects but through the payment of the right taxes at the right time. If as a company you say you are socially responsible, then behave like a socially responsible citizen and pay your taxes. […] We treat it as a corporate social responsibility issue, not as a criminal issue. [If] you are morally upright and you know that the success of your operations is dependent on the road infrastructure, the stable electricity, the quality of the human resources that the government provides, then you'll pay your taxes, you'll not avoid them."
The Platform receives support from the civil society support facility named Strengthening Transparency, Accountability and Responsiveness (STAR) in Ghana. STAR Ghana is a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism (funded by the EU alongside DFID, DANIDA and USAID) aimed at increasing the influence of Ghanaian civil society and parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery, with the ultimate goal of improving the accountability and responsiveness of Ghana's government, traditional authorities and the private sector. Given its strategic importance, the oil and gas sector was selected as one of the priority areas for the programme.
In part due to the active engagement of Ghanaian CSOs, so far the oil and gas discoveries seem more of a blessing than a curse.
Renée Zandvliet is working for EuropeAid’s 'Civil Society and Local Authorities' unit. She recently contributed to the drafting of the policy for a more strategic EU engagement with civil society, and she is currently working on the preparation of guidance materials for staff in EU Delegations on how to better work with and support civil society organisations. She has also written two other pieces on her visit to Ghana: Women’s Manifesto in Ghana: Ghana's Civil Society's 'Roadmap' for Women's Advancement and Civil Society and Ghana’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements.
At the end of 2012, Renée also visited India in order to identify and document good or innovative practices of how the European Union (EU) Delegation to India supports CSOs. Upon her return to Brussels, Renée drafted two Voices & Views and one blog for capacity4dev.eu: Civil Society and Human Resources for Health; CSOs in India use the Right to Information Act for Accountability and Transparency; The EU Delegation to India and the New EU Civil Society Policy.
This collaborative piece was drafted by Renée Zandvliet with input from Yakubu Zakaria and Steve Manteaw of ISODEC and Joseph Bogrebon Allan from the Delegation to Ghana, with support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team.