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Bar civil servants from mining — Civil society

By By Martin Kitubi

Added 21st November 2020 06:19 PM

Bar civil servants from mining — Civil society

Ejoyi (second-right), pro-biodiversity conservationists executive director Paul Twebaze and other dignitaries of civil society organisations launching the Citizens’ Manifesto at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, on Wednesday

MINERAL |

Civil society organisations have asked the Government to bar public servants and politicians, including ministers, from owning mineral rights.

Those involved should be required to declare beneficial interests, including their relatives involved in the sector.

Don Bwesigye Binyina, the executive director at the Africa Centre for Energy and Minerals Policy (ACEMP), said the move will eliminate conflict of interest by both public servants and the politicians.

In a recent study, he said, most of the dormant and idle mineral licences are in the hands of public servants, politicians, ministers and their proxies.

Binyina said the country continues to lose out on revenues due to idle licences.

In addition, Binyina said the mining sector has potential to not only create jobs, but also contribute to economy and that Uganda has failed to fully utilise this potential because of certain public servants who are holding mineral rights.

"The reason the energy and minerals ministry is underperforming in the sector, is because, there are big civil servants who are holding on these licences," he said.

He added: "To date, there are several ministers and highprofile politicians who are hoarding licences. The relevant authorities can't go after such officials."

To bar the above categories, he said, the country will also be able to attract financially-stable investors, both local and international.

On the same, he asked the Government to recall and cancel all non-performing licences, allocate adequate financial and human resources to bolster the sector.

He made the remarks at the launch of the Citizens' Manifesto on Mining and Petroleum (2021-2026) at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, on Wednesday.

The manifesto is a compilation of the citizens' voices towards the sector, and it is a concerted appeal to the next cohort of leaders in the 2021-2026 political cycle to implement their views on the sector.

On the other hand, Xavier Ejoyi, the country director of ActionAid, called for strict regulations on revenues from the sector.

Just like Binyina, Ejoyi said there is no doubt that the sector holds a significant revenue potential, and, with it, the keys to socio-economic transformation of the country.

However, even the most generous revenue and macroeconomic forecasts will only yield the transformation that citizens need, if they are grounded on sound public financial management policies.

The citizens' manifesto on petroleum and mining delves into matters of licensing, taxation, resource allocation, transparency and accountability, local content development, community development and human rights.

All these aspects are central to citizen participation in the sector.

"Public financial management is both a determinant and indicator of the progress made by the country in advancing a more efficient and inclusive development of the petroleum and mining sector. It is putting the money where our mouth is," he said.

Other demands

The manifesto has also recommended that Government regulates and, where necessary, avoids tax holidays that are harmful and leading to revenue loss in the mining sector.

According to civil society, the country has lost revenue through rent seeking by largely foreign entities.

Binyina said the mining sector is vulnerable to rent-seeking due to the large investment capital required.

"These investors create an impression that they will bring in other revenues in form of job creation and yet the country is losing out through tax incentives. The mineral resources are finite and we should take every single revenue from the sector for the country to benefit," he said.

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