The Norwergian Ambassador to Ghana, Hegel Hertzberg, says Ghana must build strong institutions to manage the revenue from the oil industry, so that the natural resources become a blessing and not curse.
She also advocates a commitment to transparency and accountability in the management of the revenue from the oil and gas industry, to propel the country’s development and the welfare of the people.
She said: “You have an important task and it is crucial that we have transparency in the oil sector.”
Ambassador Hertzberg made these suggestions when she spoke at the national stakeholders’ forum on petroleum sector governance organised by Friends of Nation on the theme, ‘Following the oil money-Impacts of oil funded projects’ here on Friday.
As Ghana exploited the oil resources, she said, key areas including environment management, the oil exploration bill, role of the Petroleum Commission, the Environment Protection Agency and the Ghana Revenue Authority should also be strong to carry out their work.
Accountability, she explained, should also be the focus of civil societies and the media, arguing that, the citizenry must know what is happening at the oil front especially, on the revenue accruing from the sector, so that they could demand their fair share.
Government, she said, must also attract investments into the sector so that the people derived the needed economic benefits.
Ambassador Hertberg said, Ghana needed to learn lessons from Norway and pursue the oil exploitation gradually, while ensuring that the revenue was meant for specific projects and backed by a long- term plan built by consensus from political parties.
The long term plan, she said, should ensure that policies spanned about 30 to 40 years.
“No matter the government in power, every government has a programme to implement the policies for the people. We need to track allocation of resources for people to benefit. Moneys must be well spent in a transparent manner so that the petroleum money becomes a blessing and not a curse.”
The Executive Director of FON, Mr. Donkris Mevuta, recalled that, in 2013, meeting was held to strengthen the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011, Act 815 in terms of the strict controls for withdrawals, conservative range of investment, mandatory auditing and reporting, strong transparency as well as provision on public access to information about the revenue management.
Participants, he noted, asked government to reconsider the decision of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to develop a long term plan and a long- term development framework in line with the provisions of ACT 815, to guide the productive utilisation of the petroleum revenue.
He added, that the participants suggested that the Ministry of Finance developed the regulations to supplement and strengthen the PRMA, ensure that the discretionary powers assigned to the minister are guided, and that, the government should consider priority projects for the Western Region especially the six coastal districts since the impact of oil and gas operations were more pronounced in these area.
A Senior Advisor for Extractive Industry Governance, Allan Lassey, said the presence of the parliamentarians, CSOs and the media were important ingredients to steps to find out how the oil money was spent.
He added: “The CSOS and the media groups must be active in the national interest so that when we don’t have oil, we don’t ask questions about how the money was used. We should open our eyes and be alert on this sector.” he said.
From Clement Adzei Boye, Takoradi