The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) has held a virtual training programme for some selected journalists in Ghana to improve their reporting around available data on Ghana’s oil sales activities.
In December last year, the NRGI released the ‘Ghana Oil Sales: Using Commodity Trading Data for Accountability’ report that among others demonstrates how publicly available data on state oil sales activities can be used by the government, civil society organisation (CSOs), media and other oversight actors to hold the government, national oil companies and trading companies accountable for how they transact business.
Thus, the training formed part of a series planned for all stakeholders in the extractive sector on how they can access and utilise such data and highlight the advocacy points to use the data.
The West Africa Regional Manager (Anglophone) at Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), Ms Nafi Chinery, said one of the objectives of the research was to utilise publicly available data to push for transparency and accountability in Ghana’s oil sales space.
“At the NRGI we are very interested in not just releasing information or leading oversight actors to publicly available data for transparency and accountability in the extractive space, but we are also very much interested in how oversight actors are able to use the data independently to push for transparency or demand for accountability,” she said.
She said all the information would not be useful if critical oversight actors such as the media could not access it and use it, as well as go to the same data source.
Therefore, she said the training was another step forward on how to ensure that the important data in the report was widely used to demand for accountability and transparency.
The report recommends that buying companies disclose information on oil sales purchases in Ghana and facilitate the disclosure of sales contracts.
For commodity trading hubs, it suggested that authorities in trading hubs such as the United Kingdom (UK), Switzerland, the United States and Singapore should require commodity trading companies to disclose the payments they made to governments for the purchase of commodities.
“Commodity traders purchasing the state’s oil in Ghana should follow the example of the government and Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) and disclose information on their purchases on a cargo-level basis,” the co-author of the report, Mr Alexander Malden, said.
“We call on traders to disclose cargo-specific payments to the GNPC using the new Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Guidance for buying companies and relevant template in order to build citizen trust in and understanding of this often-opaque activity,” he added.
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During a presentation on the report, the Africa Programme Officer at the NRGI, Mr Denis Gyeyir, who is also a co-author of the report, noted that COVID-19 had exacerbated the country’s debt sustainability issues which were already on the rise prior to the pandemic.
He disclosed that the funds received for similarly sized cargoes sold by the GNPC dropped from $125 million in April 2012 to just $12 million in April 2020.
Therefore, he said oil sales accountability was important because the commodity trading sector was particularly susceptible to corruption.
“The sector remains highly opaque and less scrutinised than a state’s extractive activities and trading transactions are not subject to the same regulations or international standards as upstream activities,” he said.