S. Sudan begins long-overdue audit of oil fields
South Sudan has finally begun the overdue environmental audits of the oilfields since the exercise was mooted two years ago.
The process overseen by the Minister of Petroleum, Puot Kang Chol, will either confirm or nullify the allegations of grievous environmental pollution affecting host communities around the oil fields.
Three audit companies – Panloy and SGS, Cowi AS Norway Bridge Consult Envirocare Waste Management, and Envage Associate (K) – were awarded the contracts to complete the process and submit their recommendations within 90 days, effective from September 17, 2022.
The contracted firms will audit Greater Pioneer Company (GPOC), Dar Petroleum Company (DPOC), and Sudd Petroleum Company (SPOC) each to determine the level of pollution and effects on the environment and people living within or around the oilfields.
“I expect [the contacted audit firms] to be independent, neutral and do the work as required by the law to meet the international standard, and there must be evidence because a lot of envelopes (bribes) will be applied,” said the minister.
He warned that the report would not hesitate to publish any oil company found to have flouted the policies on environmental safety.
Several unconfirmed reports claim the South Sudan oil industry has left a landscape pocked with hundreds of open waste pits, water, and soil contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, manganese, and arsenic.
The audit seeks to uncover the causes of alleged alarming birth defects, miscarriages, mysterious health problems, and bareness among women living in the oil-producing areas, which the audit seeks to uncover to enable informed decisions for remedy.
Furthermore, animals—the community’s source of livelihood—have also been adversely affected after drinking contaminated water.
Besides, oil exploration has been characterised by alleged corruption, rendering the oil-dependent country, South Sudan, incapable of funding developmental projects and paying civil servants, as well as leaving communities in the oil-producing areas destitute.
However, to achieve the objectivity of the findings and recommendations to remedy the situation, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry emphasised the need for cooperation with the audit firms, especially the oil exploration companies, to avail information at their disposal.
“I call on GPOC, DPOC, and SPOC to cooperate with the audit firms to have access to every data and information to determine the level of environmental pollution in the oilfields,” the Undersecretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Africano Batal said.