Mauritania– still EITI compliant?

Source: PWYP Mauritania
Date: 29 Jan 2022

Ba Aliou Coulibaly, the Technical Coordinator of the PWYP Coalition in Mauritania, explores how the country has progressed (and failed to progress) since becoming EITI compliant in December 2012. This article originally appeared (in French) on the Cridem site

After the many twists and turns that characterised the process of implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Mauritania was finally declared EITI compliant in February 2012.

Ten months after this badge of honour, observers are questioning the effectiveness of that compliance. They are wondering what real impact this label has made on promoting transparency and improving the living conditions of our populations, which is the ultimate aim of the initiative. In terms of respecting EITI principles, in such a short time, Mauritania has already started dragging its feet.

Indeed, after it was designated a compliant country, the first duty of Mauritania was to publish the late 2010 and 2011 reports in May and August 2012 respectively. These deadlines have long since passed but, to date, these reports have not been produced.

Implementation of the process, along with recruitment of consultants tasked with reconciling the figures, is the responsibility of the EITI National Committee. However, it must be said that the meetings of that body are infrequent, if not rare. This largely explains the apparent delay in finalising recruitment.

In terms of transparency, the scope of the EITI Mauritania reports remains very limited when compared with other countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso. The EITI reports only provide information on one part of the value chain, specifically what the companies pay to the State. Even in the best cases, this rarely exceeds 30 % of the transactions carried out by the companies.

Over 60 % of revenues derived from the extractive industries move through rings of service providers. These are difficult to monitor and provide a breeding ground for corruption and financial crime. Despite the efforts on the part of public authorities, many grey areas remain.

The Mauritanian PWYP Coalition organised participatory analysis sessions in towns with extractive activity. Following these, communities and workers recommended that the scope of the reports should, in future, cover more of the value chain. In particular, they should include: contracts with other service providers, social investments of businesses, taxes owing to local communities, and company turnover.

Most EITI compliant countries, such as Burkina Faso, provide information disaggregated by company and by project. Mauritania, however, provides overall figures by sector, i.e. mining and oil. This does not really help with readability and traceability. Business profit tax must be paid after the three years of exemption stipulated by the Mining Code. For the mining companies Tasiast and MCM, it should have begun in 2011.

However, the public may have to wait even longer for information about this as the 2010 and 2011 reports have not, thus far, been produced. The involvement of civil society in the implementation process is one of the fundamental principles of EITI. As such, World Bank support, within the framework of multi-donor funding, should, preferably, facilitate the effective participation of civil society in the workshops on awareness-raising and disseminating EITI reports.

The technical services of the State, especially of the Ministry of Mines and Oil, appear to be unaware of the existence of the Mauritanian PWYP Coalition. The latter is today the leading specialist network in promoting transparency in the extractive industries in Mauritania.

As such, it would be appropriate to point out that the “compliant” label, of which we are all so proud today, was only achieved with the greatest difficulty, and that it was on the authoritative recommendation of Mauritanian civil society. Given all of the above, we believe that Mauritania is definitely still compliant. However, it seems to us that we’re resting on our laurels. Without special efforts, Mauritania risks losing that highly strategic label.

It is therefore the duty of civil society to spur on the relevant State services in order to safeguard, and strengthen, the successes already achieved. Compliance must not be an end in itself. Rather, it must be the beginning of a process of transparency which must be reflected in day-to-day practices. As such, it will serve the State, companies, workers and communities. Transparency will make it possible to establish harmonious and sustainable human development.