NCAC: Petroleum amendment Act to strengthen transparency, accountability

NCAC: Petroleum amendment Act to strengthen transparency, accountability
Oil pipeline which transports crude oil from South Sudan to Sudan. Photo: Courtesy

The amendment of the Petroleum Act, 2012, and petroleum revenue management will address issues of transparency and accountability in the sector, said the chairperson of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee.

According to Gichira Kibara who handed the two Acts to the ministry of justice yesterday, the Act has strengthened the provisions for accountability and transparency as well as the regulatory provisions to ensure that those investing in the production of petroleum can be held responsible for any activities. This is to prevent pollution or any harm to the community where they carry out their activities.

He said the main changes are to ensure that the activities of oil companies are conducted in a transparent and accountable manner and that those who are responsible for managing petroleum activities ensure that the public benefit from them.

“[It is to ensure] that there is no pollution, the environment is protected, and the rights of communities who live in the petroleum areas are protected; and that the revenue coming from the petroleum industry is properly managed and not diverted from the account for the revenue management in the central bank,” Kibara explained.

The 2018 peace agreement stipulates that the two amendment bills, which serve as the Republic of South Sudan’s primary regulatory laws for petroleum-related activities, must be amended in order to comply with it.

With the amendment of the two acts by NCAC, Dr Gabriel Isaac Awow, undersecretary in the ministry of justice and constitutional affairs, expressed his hope that the practice will be better and distinct from the previous law, noting that “People were in a hurry.”

“The intention of the amendment which is provided by law is for efficient and effective management of the institution, which is the ministry of petroleum and other related institutions.”

 “I’m sure that the practice will be better and everything will be put in place,” said Gabriel.

In a report published in 2021, the International Crisis Group urged reform-minded South Sudanese and their external partners to concentrate on increasing the transparency and accountability of the oil economy, by ensuring that revenue deposits go into a single public account and through other anti-corruption measures.

The report charged top officials with keeping the nation’s oil wealth a secret, preventing oversight of spending, and enabling widespread financial misappropriation. It was also stated that South Sudan’s ‘winner-take-all’ political system is based on slush funds, which helps to explain why so much went wrong so quickly after the country gained independence in 2011.

 “The peace deal signed in 2018 could help, as it includes reforms designed to combat corruption and build more accountable public finances,’’ stated the International Crisis Group.

However, during the national parliament’s review of the budget for the fiscal year 2021–2022, the Minister of Petroleum, Puot Kang Chol, revealed that despite reports of pollution from oil waste, oil companies operating in the fields have been resisting environmental audit.

There have been alarming reports of birth defects, miscarriages, and other health issues among locals living in areas where oil exploration is conducted. Some women have become barren, according to the reports on environmental damage in the oil production areas.

One of the most significant cases occurred in October 2019 in Unity State in the north of the country. More than 2,000 barrels of crude oil have leaked from a pipeline belonging to a consortium of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, and Southern Sudanese companies, but none of the companies is held accountable.