ark had done almost half of his 20 or so page power point presentation on the use of Ghana’s oil revenues. He was still presenting but I [standing behind the camera] had observed the ‘odd’ behaviour of one man on a front row seat in the conference room! At first sight, I thought he was playing with his phone.
But upon a second observation, look, he was pressing buttons to work out the figures Mark was churning out on a conventional calculator! I was surprised! “This man came that really prepared?” I said to myself.
Being curious, I looked around to scan the room, and look, jawbones were resting in palms of people! I could at this point fully grasp why the mood in the room had been one that you make when you’ve had enough of an issue.
Mark Agyemang, a technical officer at the Public Interest Accountability Committee [PIAC] was speaking about how some oil revenues between 2011 and 2018 have been spent on non-existing projects and on poorly executed ones! People were furious, but hey, this is a conference of local stakeholders. It doesn’t have those who have been making those spending decisions!
Now was time for the ‘furious’ participants to vent their spleen. Among the many questions, one caught my attention. One participant asked “So could we have known all these abuses, if PIAC didn’t exist? And why ask PIAC to only monitor oil revenues, and not gold, bauxite, manganese and other mineral revenues?”
That struck me and got me thinking! Quickly I got to know there could be two straight advantages. The first is help deepening our democracy and second, giving insight into how to deal with the volatility associated with gold, just like oil, and its effect on government revenues!
I reframed his query as, “as democratic as we say we are, and as transparent as we seem to be portraying to the international community, why haven’t we become transparent with where, what and how we have been using our mining sector revenues as we are doing with oil?
In fact, why are we asking PIAC to follow-up on $4.3b oil monies; obtained within 8 years when gold which gave Ghana $5.5b; in 2016 only, has no institution, none, monitoring which mining company paid what and which project is receiving gold revenues for development? Why?
Accountability by choice?
Think about this! Ghana is Africa’s largest producer of gold. It’s been this for quite a number of years. But, there is no accountability on how, what and where we spend the monies from the sale of our biggest mineral revenues. In other words, Ghana majors in the minors by being transparent in the use of oil revenues that amounts some 6 per cent average of its GDP but finds it hectic to ‘render account’ on gold revenues that are far in the lead of oil revenues in terms of contribution to GDP.
Has accountability in the country that touts itself as the Beacon of Hope in Africa become a choice the leadership chooses to give its citizens? Certainly, this shouldn’t be!
The Petroleum Revenue Management Law 2011, ACT 815 [as amended] mandated PIAC to provide an independent assessment of the management and use of Ghana’s oil revenues. So PIAC follows up to monitor where, how and what governments say they are using oil revenues for. This they are doing vigorously! If the Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] PIAC has signed with the Economic and Organized Crime [EOCO] begins prosecuting offenders of the provisions on oil revenues spending, that would have made a complete transparency and accountability package.
“We have the Petroleum Revenue Management Act as a model to build a Mineral Revenue Management Law on. In my view, it’s not just for accountability sake, but also, such a law will help Ghana manage the volatility effect of gold and the other minerals which exhibit same characteristics to that of oil in terms of trading”.
Dr Emmanuel Steve Asare Manteaw
Now, imagine if Ghana had a Mineral [gold, manganese, bauxite] Revenue Management Law after 1957, which stated that we should put a thousand Ghana cedis into a heritage account anytime there is payment by the gold mining companies! Notice that in just 8 years of petroleum, we have $400m in the Ghana Heritage Fund.
Again, imagine if we had such a law which stated that the government will have to pinpoint or label all fully funded gold revenue projects yearly! Wouldn’t today people know what gold has done for us in the past, and to inform how we proceed with contracting and revenue management going forward?
So why isn’t the Ghanaian Parliament pushing for such transparency and accountability law? Two answers come to mind! Citizens get their governments to do what they want if they demand it, or their governments provide if it does not inconvenience them.
Transparency by convenience?
You see, as citizens, we choose to get the kind of governance we want. The assumption that people voted for will use whatever resources we give them to our interest is false! That’s very false, and we have present and past governments [both NDC and NPP] to help us see this. So we need to demand every kind of government we want and resist acts of transparency and accountability only if it suits the political class.
See, we can only get our hospitals and broken emergency and ambulance services fixed if we consistently demand for it, we can get our nursery pupils in rural schools out from writing on the floor and on slates in the era of technology if we consistently demand it, we can get inflated project cost to be realistic if we so push it, we can get all our newly constructed roads to be asphalted other than surface dressing if we demand it, we can get half of our farmers to using mechanical labour other than awarding them machetes at farmers day if we do same, and we can get our government to account on how and where they spend every coin that comes out of the sale of gold if we consistently demand it. We need to get our government’s direction towards where we want to have them, otherwise, development, transparency and accountability will only be given by the governing machinery if it suits them, not when it inconveniences them!
Today, both roads leading to Obuasi from Kumasi or Cape Coast, cast a very bad shadow of shame on people who have managed gold all these years. Tarkwa is even worse!
The PIAC model has come for petroleum, why is it missing so long for gold that came before oil? Let’s have a Mineral Revenue Management Law with provisions that ensure that the volatility effect of the sale of the minerals are curtailed and more importantly, a PIAC model that gets governments to account on where, what and how they use revenues from our minerals.
On this note, let us all join hands with @oxfaminghana and Friends of the Nation to push the Nana Addo led government to fulfil the promise, and enact the Mineral Revenue Management Law Now! Sign the petition here
By: Obrempong Yaw Ampofo/ourstorisonline.com