Date: May 27, 2009, 10:29 am


Ghana’s new government has withdrawn two draft petroleum bills from parliament for “wider consultation�? with stakeholders. President John Evans Atta Mills said the oil and gas policy bill and the petroleum regulatory authority bill had raised concerns last year while his National Democratic Congress (NDC) was still in opposition.


Speaking at a news conference at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) on 7 May, Atta Mills said he was committed to using oil and gas revenues to build a

strong economy. However, campaigners have expressed concern that development of the Jubilee field is being fasttracked while the regulatory framework for the new industry is still being drawn up.  The consultation process on the oil and gas policy attracted criticism at the time for being much less inclusive than it claimed. The policy draft published in June 2008 was just 16 pages long and rather lacking in specifics.  The more comprehensive draft petroleum regulatory authority bill was introduced in October 2008 and failed to make it through parliament before the December elections. The bill aims to create an independent regulatory authority, while defining Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) as a strictly commercial entity. A report published in February by Oxfam America and the local Integrated Social Development Centre, entitled Ghana’s Big Test: Oil’s Challenge to Democratic Development, welcomed many aspects of the bill, such as its recognition of the need to split GNPC’s regulatory and commercial functions, and its ban on gas flaring from the outset. But it noted a number of causes of concern, including the proposal to have the head of GNPC on the board of the planned Ghana Petroleum Regulatory Authority (GPRA), the lack of a role for parliament, and that GPRA appointments would be made by the president and therefore potentially more political than technical.  “When we took over we had high expectations of the economy. What we found could not be described as robust to say the least,�? Atta Mills said. “But we have the potential and we have the team to turn things around.�? 


Seeking to reassure investors, Atta Mills stressed that there  would be no wholesale review of contracts signed under the previous administration, as there has been after past changes of government. One contract that will be reviewed, however, is the sale of a 70% stake in Ghana Telecom to Vodafone for $900m in August 2008. A committee has been set up to examine various aspects of the deal, notably the inclusion of fibre-optic infrastructure, what other offers were available at the time, an alleged indemnity clause protecting those involved from prosecution, and the suspension of Ecobank Development Corporation as transaction advisers. “At the time the agreement was signed there was so much uncertainty,�? AttaMills said. “We just want to clear the air, so that Vodafone and the people of Ghana can be satisfied the agreement is above board.�?   Atta Mills said the problems his administration had inherited, coupled with the effects of the global economic crisis, meant his government was so far failing to meet Ghanaians’ expectations of change. “We’re not interested in a blame game but we want to tell the people of Ghana what we’ve inherited as a start to accountability,�? he said.


                                                                                                                Credit : The Accra Correspondent, 


                                                                                                                OIL GAS POWER POLICY & FINANCE


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