The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) has called on the government to allow state institutions with the financial muscle to own shares in oil blocks acquired by foreign companies in the country.
The committee said it was becoming increasingly clear that private companies were not able to raise funds to become minority shareholders, in accordance with the law, when foreign companies applied to acquire blocks for oil production.
Per the local content law, Ghanaians are expected to own not less than five per cent in any oil block acquired by a foreign company but this is not happening.
The call comes at a time when the local companies are instead fronting for foreigners, a practice the Petroleum Commission frowns on and has, accordingly, vowed to clamp down on those behind such illegalities.
The Chairman of PIAC, Dr Steve Manteaw, made the call at a three-day stakeholder workshop for senior members and executive of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) at Ho at the weekend.
“GOIL and other institutions such as the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and even the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) should be made to acquire shares in the oil blocks because they have the financial resources to be able to take that up and return some profit and pay dividend to the state”, he proposed.
He said once the state institutions “are for Ghanaians, they can also be made to invest in that sector. Take SSNIT, for instance, it has a lot of pensions funds and should be allowed to invest some of the funds in the oil sector to guarantee better returns for contributors.”
Use of oil revenue
On the use of oil revenue, Dr Manteaw said the rampant misapplication, mismanagement and misappropriation of oil revenues meant for development should constitute a deep sense of worry for all well-meaning Ghanaians.
“One day, our oil reserves will be depleted and we will have nothing to show for being an oil producing country”, he said.
According to him, there were too many questions surrounding the projects which were supposed to be financed with oil revenue from the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) and the Ghana Petroleum Funds (GPF) and cautioned that should the trend be allowed to continue without people in charge of disbursement and monitoring and evaluation asked to account for the funds, the country will be the loser.
“We seem not to have learnt any lessons from the misuse of our gold and other mineral resources where, after decades of mining, we still have nothing concrete to show for it”, he pointed out.
Dr Manteaw said out of the GH¢736.03 million allocated from the ABFA in 2017, for instance, only a little over GH¢300 million was released.
He said “for the remaining GH¢400 million and over, we do not know where the funds are so we have written a couple of times to the Ministry of Finance seeking answers but we have received no response yet.”
Subsequently, he said the PIAC had met with some state institutions, including the Attorney-General’s Department, Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), among others, to help prosecute cases with regard to some of the projects.
Other sessions addressed by some other members of the PIAC dealt with the poor execution and in many instances the non-existent projects for which funds had been released.
They also exposed the misapplication of funds in the education sector with regard to the free senior high school programme and said more comprehensive reports on such activities would be released after conclusions had been made.