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Shrinking Space, Secrecy in Oil Deals Bothers CSOs

They say that beside the highly sought after oil and gas agreements which remain inaccessible, there is need to make available all approved environment and social impact assessment (ESIAs) reports, Environmental Audit reports, and Petroleum costs Audit reports
The Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas

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The Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas has tasked the government to ensure access to information about the oil sector by all stakeholders as a means to ensure accountability.

The CSOs have also called on the government to improve civic space for non-state actors and citizens whose role is to hold the government accountable. They say that beside the highly sought after oil and gas agreements which remain inaccessible,  there is need to make available all approved environment and social impact assessment (ESIAs) reports, Environmental Audit reports, and Petroleum costs Audit reports.

The call follows an earlier meeting between Members of Parliament's Oil and Gas Forum and the Civil society on what should be done as Uganda waits for her first oil in 2025.

James Muhindo, the National Coordinator Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas says that accessing the information will help stakeholders to hold oil companies and relevant agencies accountable and facilitate third party monitoring of oil and gas development.

Muhindo said that there is need for fiscal discipline and proper management of petroleum revenues especially by complying with laws like the Public Finance Management Act. He says that on several occasions, both the procedure and purpose for withdrawal of this fund was flouted.

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On several occasions, the government has withdrawn funding from the Petroleum Fund contrary to the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act. But the CSOs note that 200 billion Shillings was withdrawn from the fund to finance the budget during the financial year 2018/2019 without following the provisions of the law.

The law gives the mandate to an investment advisory committee  to advise the minister on the investments made under the petroleum revenue investment reserve.

Henry Mugisha Bazira, also a member of the CSCO (Water Governance Institute) is concerned that at the moment, the sector is shrouded in a lot of secrecy, even though the government should be able to update Ugandans on developments in the oil sector.

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Bazira says that besides freedom of expression, association and assembly enshrined in the constitution, the civic duties of the citizens include holding the government responsible and accountable and he called on the government not to stifle efforts of citizens, CSOs and other actors.

His comment stems from the recent arrest of civil society advocates, and the closure and  suspension of CSOs and Non-Government organizations among others.

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Irene Ssekyana, the chairperson of the CSCO says that governments need to commit further in monitoring oil and gas activities including issues to do with the environment.  She says that although the government agencies are meant to monitor what the oil companies are doing, most times it’s the oil companies that facilitate the  government agencies.

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