By Raymond Baguma
The visiting Auditor General of Norway, Jørgen Kosmo, has advised his counterparts in Uganda to ensure accountability and transparency in the country's nascent oil industry by eliminating secrecy and promoting openness.
He said the Auditor General should partner with legislature and executive arms of government and ensure there is no hidden agenda in management of the oil resource on behalf of Ugandans.
He was Tuesday speaking during the joint petroleum conference at Imperial Royale Hotel to discuss transparency and accountability issues emerging in the country’s nascent petroleum sector.
He said in order to ensure tax revenues benefit the State and people, the Auditor General’s office as an accountability agency should scrutinise activities of the oil exploration companies, make risk reductions and recommend how to solve the risks.
“In order to develop democracy, good accountability and transparency, the first and last amendment is openness. Without that, it is more or less impossible. The best audit tool besides competence is openness. If somebody has a hidden agenda, find out that agenda and publish it,” said Kosmo.
The conference was organised by the Auditor Generals’ officers of Uganda and Norway with support from the Norwegian Oil for Development Programme.
The conference aimed to discuss the roles of the Office of the Auditor General in ensuring transparency and accountability in the petroleum sector to guarantee sustainable resource exploitation.
Present were Members of Parliament from Uganda, as well as representatives from Ghana and South Sudan’s audit institutions.
Uganda’s Auditor General, John Muwanga, said that his office has so far verified recoverable costs amounting to US$492m submitted by the oil exploration companies since 2008.
Ernest Rubondo, the commissioner in the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department said that government is monitoring on a 24-hour basis, the operations of the oil companies and is looking at the companies’ recoverable costs in line with their approved budgets.
Norwegian Ambassador to Uganda Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther said that following the granting of a production license last week to CNOOC, the oil production phase in Uganda is becoming a reality.
“Transparency and accountability in the management of petroleum resources are key and vital not only for avoiding the resource curse, but also for securing much needed private sector investments. This again will generate the development of infrastructure, healthcare, education and provide jobs for Ugandans,” said Gaustadsæther.