A coalition of civil society organizations on Thursday urged government to ensure that the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill and Marine Pollution Bill, which are before Parliament, are revised for the good of the nation.
According to the coalition although the current Bill is an improvement upon PNDC Law 84, as it encourages open tender in the award of petroleum contracts, the portion which arrogates power to the sector Minister to single handedly award contacts in some instance without giving reasons is a recipe for corruption in the near future.
The coalition members include the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Friends of the Nation (FoN) and the Western Region branch of the Ghana National Canoe and Fishermen?s Council.
Speaking at the Editors? Forum in Accra, Mr Augustine Niber, CEPIL Executive Director said in countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola, the petroleum laws require that the sector Ministers could award contracts in a situation where the national interest is paramount but reasons must be published for it.
The Forum was on the theme: ?Improving Stakeholders’ Participation in the Development of the Legal and Regulatory Frame work to Maximize Benefits from our Petroleum Resources?.
He said in Brazil, there was public hearing and the submission of a memorandum of understanding on such petroleum contracts before it could be awarded.
According the Executive Director, in Southern Sudan, the law requires that the sector Minister must publish details of the contracts on the Ministry?s website; which he described as part of transparency and accountability.
?Why should the Minister in Ghana discard the open contract and go for direct negotiations without giving reasons?? he questioned.
He advocated for the new petroleum law in Ghana to make provision for the creation of a register for all petroleum companies and transactions to be published on the website of the Ministry.
Mr Niber said the new law should ensure disclosure of ownership of petroleum companies, take care of conflict of interest and grievances of the people, and citizen participation in the oil blocks.
He said the Bill as it stands exempts companies from paying withholding taxes, which was detrimental to the economy.
Mr Kyei Kwadwo Yamoah, FoN Natural Resources Programme Coordinator, said the Marine Pollution Bill had no clear guidelines and procedures for claiming and payment of compensation.
He said the Bill had little provisions for gas pollution, mechanism for compensation payment and who receives what under compensation.
He called on government to ensure that compensations paid by oil companies for environmental damages get to the six communities in the oil block of the Western Region.
He said the activities of oil companies offshore was affecting the livelihood of fisher folks in ways such as accidents between fishing vessels and oil vessels, obstruction of fishing activities in major fishing seasons and loss of fishing grounds due to exclusive zones created around oil rigs.