The recent article Focusing on corruption in the Oil & Gas Journal argues that the fight against corruption ‘is too important to be allowed to serve as cover for other political agendas’. The article names Publish What You Pay and several of its US member groups as ‘obstructionist’ organizations that ‘consistently resist oil and gas development’.
According to the article, ‘Two approaches to transparency collide … In one, payments should be disclosed in order to hold governments accountable for use of the money. The other approach makes companies the targets of accountability.’
Oil & Gas Journal seems unwilling to accept that these two approaches are fully compatible and both necessary (if insufficient in themselves) to ensure that duty bearers in government and in business are publicly accountable. Citizens and civil society in resource-rich countries need to hold to account both the governments that manage their country’s natural resources on their behalf and the companies that are entrusted with the task of developing the resources for the public good.
Dodd-Frank Section 1504, like the proposed new European Union Accounting and Transparency directives, is not just about bribery. Nor is Publish What You Pay hostile to the extractive industries per se. We simply want to see ordinary people worldwide get a good deal from the planet’s finite resources.
For this to happen, local communities need to know how much they should receive from the extraction of locally sourced oil, gas and minerals, which requires companies to report payments to governments at project-level, and wherever possible for each lease, license or concession. Communities can then judge if they and their country are being paid a fair price. In addition, in the DRC, Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines and elsewhere, where local communities are entitled to – or promised – a certain percentage of revenues, knowing how much revenue is generated from one region or community has real implications for curbing corruption and ensuring peace and stability.
When BP gives a $100 million signature bonus to an unstable regime, or makes multi-million-dollar payments into obscure ‘social projects’ controlled by Angola’s highly opaque state oil company, but doesn’t deem such payments ‘material’, major political and financial risks arise for investors and communities. Citizens, shareholders, and the courageous political representatives and civil society advocates who genuinely want to end corruption all need this level of information.
Miles Litvinoff (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Publish What You Pay UK’s Consultant / Coordinator