Ghanaians had high expectations when the country discovered oil in commercial quantities. That was justified, juxtaposed against the backdrop that the discovery of oil was going to change the fortunes of the country for the better.
In fact, judging from the wealth of oil-producing countries, there was a dominance of optimism, as the people envisaged that the oil industry would create more employment opportunities, improve infrastructure and the status of communities where oil was drilled and generally enhance the development of the country.
Mindful of the fact that the discovery of a natural resource could be a curse, and that resource abundance might result in the displacement of other sectors of the economy that are equally essential for growth, the government, with the assistance of its development partners, convened a national dialogue that culminated in the formulation of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) [Act 815].
The act seeks to guide the way petroleum revenues will be managed to avoid repeating the mistakes of some oil-producing countries and the Dutch disease.
Under the law, provision is made for the establishment of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), an independent statutory body mandated to promote transparency and accountability in the management of petroleum revenues.
The Daily Graphic thinks the PIAC has so far done well by sensitising citizens to how the country is doing in terms of the management of its oil revenues through its annual reports. Of interest is the non-technical language in which the reports are written to facilitate easy understanding for readers.
However, we are worried that since 2011 when the PIAC was inaugurated, there have been instances when the authorities mandated to ensure proper accountability of oil revenues have not fulfilled their responsibilities without blemish.
The PIAC had occasion, in 2015, to remind the ministries of Petroleum and Power to ensure that all outstanding receivables in respect of lean gas sold to the VRA, which stood at US$227.78 million as of the end of December 2015, were settled.
Just a couple of months ago, the PIAC again dropped a worrying scenario when it said about half of the projects supposed to have been funded and executed with petroleum revenue did not exist.
But the committee’s comment did not go without rebuttal, as a deputy minister in the erstwhile NDC government described the report as misleading and a clear attempt to twist facts and serve a political interest.
In the face of the rebuttal, it was difficult to tell who was giving the facts and who was giving the fiction.
This is why the Daily Graphic is glad that the PIAC has taken a decision to compile a list of oil-funded projects identified in the budget every year. We think this is long overdue but commendable, as the initiative will allow the people to be proactively involved in the execution of the projects. We also agree that the initiative will help the people to monitor projects in their communities, curb the mismanagement of oil revenue, as well as hold the government accountable for any shortcomings.
But we think PIAC can do more to ensure better accountability. It should ensure, through every lawful means, a cessation of the abuse of oil revenues, as happened from 2011 to 2016. It is only by doing this that we can be sure that oil revenues are used for their purposes for the benefit of all.