Gov’t 'starving people of oil and gas information'

By Billy Rwothungeyo

“Government has been holding talk shows. Who determines the content of the talk shows?"

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KAMPALA - Government has been accused of resorting to public relations instead of providing actual information that citizens want in matters regarding the oil and gas industry.

Peter Magelah Gwayaka, a researcher and programme manager with Chapter Four, says there is misconception by public servants that the access to information law means feeding the population with more public relations as opposed to access to records held by government.

He was speaking at a dialogue on transparency and accountability in Uganda’s oil and gas sector organized by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG).

Magelah said government is giving people what it deems fit to feed the citizens as opposed to what the citizens actually want.

“We have more on what government is going to do and where it is going to do it, as opposed to you accessing the actual records that government holds.

"For example, if you are talking about a refinery [project], access to records would mean you knowing who are the people there [affected by project], how much were they paid, the records of the payments, and this,” he said.

Magelah added: “What is available, we have newspaper articles with a government official saying all the affected people have been compensated, or where a journalist stands before a ministry official, and asks what is happening on the ground, and then the official responds that evictions will happen in a month after payment to the affected persons.”

To this effect, he revealed that a study has been done and soon, results will be released.

“Government has been holding talk shows. Who determines the content of the talk shows? It is an official at the ministry who thinks this information is important to the community. The ministry gives to you what they think you should know,” he said.

Buliisa County MP Stephen Mukitale, also a member of the Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas, said information flow is good for managing expectations.

“We should know what is being expended, what is being produced," said the legislator.

"I had some visitors last week in Buliisa, and people were asking me whether oil is not getting out of the ground. Indeed, no oil is coming out of the ground as yet, but this arises due to lack of information.”

Buliisa is one of the districts hosting oil and gas activities in Uganda.


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