Public deals should be more transparent

By Vision Reporter

British oil explorer Heritage has sold its fields in Uganda to Italian oil giant Eni SPA for between $1.3b and $1.5b.

British oil explorer Heritage has sold its fields in Uganda to Italian oil giant Eni SPA for between $1.3b and $1.5b.

Analysts believe heritage’s decision to pull out of Uganda was lack of capital and experience to build a refinery, a condition which President Yoweri Museveni insists on.

While Eni has a solid financial base and vast experience in oil production, Ugandans deserve to know if the Government knew about the deal and approve of it.

It is true that Eni has a presence in 70 countries, including in Africa, with a market capitalisation of $38b (2008 figures), making it the third largest oil refiner in Europe after Royal Dutch Shell and Total.

However, the company has not been free of controversies. A deal signed in 2005 between Russian Gazprom and Eni was cancelled because the Italian parliament questioned the legitimacy of the arrangement.

One-third of the shares in the trading company Central Energy Italian Gas Holding belonged to Bruno Mentasti-Grinelli, who happened to be an old friend and partner of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

And earlier this year, the European Commission filed formal antitrust charges against Eni. The commission believes that the company has conspired to keep competitors from using its gas pipelines.

Did the Government know these facts before allowing this deal to proceed? If it didn’t, what measures are there to ensure that the new company’s policy is in line with that of the Government?

Ugandan tax payers have lost colossal sums of money due to dubious agreements with private companies.

In the case of the sh370b CHOGM expenditure, the Attorney General has been accused by the public accounts committee of not protecting the interests of Ugandans when drafting contracts with private service providers.

More transparency is needed in all Government contracts, including those on oil exploration and exploitation.

Oil is a national asset. It should benefit all Ugandans. It is, therefore, imperative that the public is informed about new developments and oil deals to avoid suspicion.

Public deals should be more transparent