The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) has urged the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to take steps to ensure that the Saltpond Offshore Producing Company Ltd. (SOPCL) pays all monies owed the state, including penalties.
"In the view of PIAC, no matter how paltry that amount may seem, SOPCL should take urgent steps to pay amounts owed and the revenue collection authorities should ensure the full amounts and penalties paid as swiftly as possible, the oversight body said in a statement issued on Monday 28th May, 2012.
This followed revelations by the Ministry of Energy that 'Surface rental of US$605 for 2011 is yet to be paid to Government by SOPCL."
The PIAC is the statutory Committee established to monitor and evaluate compliance by Government and all other relevant institutions connected with the management and use of the nation's petroleum revenues and is required by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815) to issue annual reports on the management of the revenues.
In accordance with its legal mandate, the oversight body launched its 2011 report on Thursday 17th May, 2012. One of the key findings of the report was that Not all payments expected to go into the Ghana Petroleum Holding Fund were reported on. Act 815 covers all oil receipts and Section 6 of Act 815 (PRMA) lists surface rentals explicitly. The surface rentals were paid into Government of Ghana Non-Tax revenue account in 2011 and not accounted for in the Petroleum Holding Fund, nor were payments from the Saltpond field included.
In answer to press queries about the Saltpond oilfield during the launch, the Chairman of PIAC, Major Sowa Ablorh-Quarcoo, confirmed the Committee's inability to obtain payment records from that oilfield into the Petroleum Holding Fund for 2011.
In what appeared as a challenge of the PIAC report, the Ministry of Energy issued a statement which was published by sections of the press on 23rd May, 2012. The statement indicated that oil revenues from the Saltpond oilfield in 2011 were paid into the Government Non-Tax Revenue Account ? an account which is quite different from the Petroleum Holding Fund into which petroleum revenue payments were required to be made in accordance with Act 815 which was passed in April 2011.
The Ministry went on to reveal that surface rental of US$605 for 2011 was yet to be paid to Government by SOPCL.
Countering the Energy Ministry, the oversight body said in its statement titled ?PIAC Reaction to Ministry of Energy Release Regarding Revenue from Saltpond Oilfield? that it welcomed the information that had been released through the Ministry?s statement.
It said the information allows the public to know what has been paid from the Saltpond Field and goes to confirm the Committee's firm position that not a pesewa was paid from the Saltpond oilfield into the Petroleum Holding Fund during the 2011 fiscal year, but rather paid into the Non-Tax Revenue Account.
It clarified that in preparing its 2011 annual report, the Committee sent the draft report for validation by staff members at the GRA and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). The Committee therefore published the 2011 Annual Report in good faith based on the information it had available.
It also asserted its independence, stating, ?PIAC?is not an interest group but a statutory body set up in the wisdom of the people of Ghana as one of the key mechanisms to ensure that the nation's oil find does not become a curse but a blessing.
In pursuance of its mandate, PIAC encourages all relevant bodies connected with the management and use of Ghana's oil revenue to demonstrate their commitment to implementing the recommendations made in the 2011 Petroleum Revenue Management Annual report.
It recalled that recommendation 3 of the Committee's report was that MOFEP [Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning] should take steps to account for the 2011 unaccounted proceeds in the Petroleum Holding Fund in a special report to Parliament and ensure that all receipts are reported on in future.
We therefore wait for this action to be taken by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
Last week, the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas (CSPOG) pledged support for the PIAC, vowing to resist any attempts to demonise the Committee, which is a statutory body.
?It is indeed rather curious that it takes the Ministry of Energy, and not Finance and Economic Planning to respond to a finding that indicts the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Steve Manteaw, Chair of CSPOG told newsmen in Accra last week.
He observed that Section 16 of the PRMA required the Minister of Finance to reconcile quarterly petroleum receipts and expenditures and submit reports to Parliament as well as publish the reports in the newspapers.
While the Minister has met these requirements, we cannot remember any reporting by the Minister on crude oil liftings from the Saltpond fields and revenues from the sale of this crude oil, he told the journalists.
The CSPOG went on to demand audit and publication of the volumes of production from the Saltpond fields, the revenues generated from the fields, and payments made to the state including surface rental and royalty payments.
The group further demanded full disclosure of all payments to the GNPC and GNPC's payments to Government in respect of its participation in the Saltpond project.
Further, we demand the immediate transfer of all monies held in the Government of Ghana non-tax revenue account number 02-230600660-00 in respect of the Saltpond fields into the Petroleum Holding Fund.
We demand explanation from the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning for his failure to report on the liftings and corresponding receipts and other payments from the operations of SOPCL after the PRML [PRMA] had taken effect. We also want to know why it condoned the continued payment by Lushann into the Ministry's non-tax revenue account, when it was aware of the new statutory arrangements for such payments.