29 June 2012

Ghana: Finance Minister Backs EITI Bill

Dr Kwabena Duffuor, Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, has given strong backing to the "Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Bill, 2012" and is willing to push it to Cabinet for approval and subsequent submission to Parliament.

According to sources close to the Minister's office, he has also sanctioned meetings with strategic stakeholders in a bid to get wider stakeholder buy-in.

However he had not been willing to go public on these efforts, the source told Public Agenda soon after our publication of Monday June 25, 2012 titled "Government urged to begin EITI legislation process."

The revelations may assuage the fears of groups of civil society activists working in the natural resource sector who were perturbed that the process towards enactment of the EITI legislation was not fast enough.

This fear emanates from the fact that under Ghana's democratic system, a new parliament cannot continue work began by a previous one. Thus, if the "Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Bill, 2012" is introduced to the current parliament at a later time, it may not complete the process of passing it into law.

Parliament is expected to rise towards the end of July, returning in the last quarter of the year before rising again to allow Members of Parliament (MPs) to get involved in this year's elections campaign.

Further checks by Public Agenda indicate that some members of the legislature could be involved in the Finance Minister's planned strategic meetings to prepare them for the eventual introduction of the draft legislation to the august body.

At a meeting held last Friday in Accra for civil society activists to interrogate the provisions in the proposed "Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Bill, 2012," participants expressed satisfaction with the provisions of the proposed legislation, describing it as a document that meets their aspirations.

Nonetheless, they were uncomfortable with the slow pace of the process and therefore asked that government, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP), quickened action on the development of the proposed EITI legislation for Ghana.

Bishop Akolgo, Executive Director of the Integrated Development Centre (ISODEC), has observed that the essence of the law is not only to give legal backing to the EITI implementation but also "to mainstream transparency, accountability and probity" in the management of the nation's natural resources.

"We know that opacity is what protects those who hide and make money out of resources at our expense, so transparency, accountability and probity are very important in protecting the benefits of these resources for all, the rich and poor alike," Mr Akolgo said.

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