A law expert on Tuesday called for a review of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) 2011(Act 815), for best practices, efficient and judicious management of the oil and gas resources.
Mr Augustine Niber, Executive Director of Center for Public Interest Law, who made the call, underscored the value of the Act, and stressed that if not reviewed, the PRMA could hit an implementation snag.
He was speaking at a National Multi-Stakeholder Conference on Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), organized in Accra to discuss ways of improving the PRMA.
It also aimed at suggesting ways of overcoming challenges facing the PIAC, a group set up by Parliament to monitor and to serve as an independent watchdog over the Petroleum Fund.
On reference pricing, Mr Niber said 'the determination of a reference price for oil will have a significant impact on the amount of revenue deposited into the Petroleum Fund by the Government'. He recommended that a regional spot price could be used as an appropriate reference oil pricing.
Mr Niber called on petroleum companies to publish petroleum receipts and other information to ensure accountability. He pointed out that the Act seemed to undermine itself in the area of Heritage Fund, where it provided an avenue for the depletion of the Fund before the time of its utilization.
'There is the great likelihood that politicians will abuse section 10(4), by using their sheer majority in Parliament to authorize the spending of the interest accruing on the heritage fund.'
Mr Niber said because minimal oversight existed over the fund amount allocation process, any Minister could direct funding to suit political needs and pet projects. He called on civil society groups and the Media to advocate for the immediate development of a long-term National Development Plan, to forestall this implementation challenge.
On the functions of the PIAC, Mr Niber said the Act undermined its ability to monitor and to serve as an independent watchdog over the Petroleum Fund.
'As the Act is currently written, however the Committee does not appear to have any authority to investigate or request for information from government agencies, companies or individuals involved with petroleum development or petroleum revenue management or to convene appropriate experts to assist with the Committee's duties,' he said.
Mr Niber expressed dissatisfaction that regulations took time to be formulated in Ghana adding, '…regulations for effective implementation of the Act may delay in coming.' 'This means important decisions which could have been regulated by the regulations will be subject to Ministerial discretion.'
Major Daniel Ablorh-Quarcoon (rtd), Chairman of the PIAC, regretted that the Committee was under-resourced,and therefore called on Parliament to treat it as a priority area for Government budget allocation.
Major Ablor-Quarcoo (rtd) called on Parliament to organize follow-ups for their members on the reports and findings of PIAC.
The 13-member Committee was inaugurated on September 15th, 2011.