Ghana: Timber Revenue to Be Made Public

Source: All Africa
Date: 28 Sep 2021

The initiative that allows citizens to access information on how much money companies extracting natural resources in Ghana pay to government as tax is to be introduced in the forestry sector, Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has hinted.

Public Agenda's information is that preparatory works have been carried out on the feasibility of introducing the initiative, technically called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), to the forestry sector.

This would mean that officially accredited personnel will visit timber companies operating in the country and check and re-scrutinise their books against those of the government to ensure that revenue declared by government as receipts on timber and other forest products align with figures recorded by the companies.

On Thursday, Vice President Amissah-Arthur gave clues of government's plan to roll out the initiative in the sector, saying: "I am optimistic that when we call on the forest sector stakeholders they will accord to us the same cooperation their colleagues in the mining and oil/Gas Industry have."

He praised mining and petroleum (oil and gas) sector companies for offering support to the Ghana EITI (GHEITI) programme. "I also wish to commend those mining conglomerates and international oil and gas companies who through their own volition have supported our quest for transparency and accountability in the mineral and now oil and gas sectors."

The Vice President gave the commendation in an address delivered on his behalf at the first Africa regional conference on EITI which is being organised and hosted by the GHEITI Secretariat in Accra on the theme: "Natural Resource Governance; Setting Standards with EITI."

The conference, which commenced yesterday and would close today, has been examining topics such as: Implications of EITI Compliant Status on Governance, Management and Standards for Effective EITI Implementation; Achieving Compliance - The Challenges; and Transforming Countries through Natural Resource Wealth: Challenges in Management and Utilisation of Natural Resource Revenues. The other topics are: Addressing Challenges and Expanding the Benefits of Natural Resource Endowed Countries through EITI; and Emerging Initiatives in Natural Resource Governance.

The GHEITI - a tri-partite arrangement between government, companies and civil society - was started in the mining sector after Ghana signed on to the initiative in 2003, becoming EITI compliant after 2010. The country has since extended the initiative to the oil and gas sector and there are indications from the GHEITI Secretariat that the first report on payments of taxes by oil companies to government under the EITI would be issued this year.

Vice President Amissah-Arthur believes that the success in the implementation of the initiative has come as a result of support from companies in both the mining and petroleum sectors as well as civil society groups.

Delivering the Vice President's statement, Hon. Alhassan Azong, Minister of State in charge of Public Sector Reform (PSR), praised civil society groups for their support to the initiative in the country. "I wish to specially mention our civil society stakeholders, particularly those groups and individuals organized under the banner of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Ghana and the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas for their unwavering commitment to see Ghana make the best out of its God-given natural resources."

Early on, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, had observed in a speech also read on his behalf that the implementation of GHEITI has thrived partly because government had remained committed, passing various financial management legislations to catalyse the reforms.

"The reforms include among others the enactment of the Public Procurement Act, Financial Administration Act, Internal Audit Act, public expenditure management and tax administration reforms. The reforms were designed to reduce corruption, promote openness, transparency and accountability," Dr Duffuor said in the address read by Hon. Kwadwo Owusu-Agyeman, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources.

Expressing support for the implementation of GHEITI, Dr" Maria Telkuelve, Head of Co-operation at the German Embassy in Ghana, gave plaudits for the running of GHEITI. "The Ghana EITI is prominent and successful ... Ghana is very active with this very initiative and can look back on many successes."

However, Dr Telkuelve was quick to remind stakeholders that more resources were required to implement national development strategies such as the Ghana Shared Growth Development Agenda (GSGDA). Thus, there was the need for all sectors and stakeholders to play by the rules so that no political powerhouse rises to capsize the process.

Dr Francis Paris of the EITI International Secretariat also praised the initiative but called for more timely reports. He further observed that, across the 35 EITI implementing countries, there was the need to make EITI implementation simpler. Ultimately, the expectation of the International Secretariat is to lead an EITI review process that would broaden the scope and make the EITI platform wider and stronger.

Dr Paris noted that EITI would transform the management of natural resources in Ghana, and consequently avoid the infamous resource curse that has plagued many natural resource endowed countries in Africa, especially.

Dr Steve Manteaw, the representative of the local civil society organisations engaged in the natural resources sector, stated that "when the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative was launched in 2002, many of us in civil society received the news with cynicism in terms of how it will address our key concerns which resonate perfectly with those highlighted in the World Bank's study...

"Today, looking back, and reflecting on what we here in Ghana, and I guess other implementing countries, have been able to achieve with EITI - the policy and practice change brought about as a result of the findings and recommendations of EITI audits, we definitely can say confidently, that we are on course to turning resource extraction into a win-win venture for companies, governments and citizens alike."

He, however, called for a re-definition of the scope and content of EITI to align its objects with the concerns of community people in order to specifically include other dimensions of transparency such as contracts, policy formulation, regulatory regime, social and environmental costs and compensation.

By Frederick Asiamah

All Africa