Thursday, January 14, 2010 (Lead Story)
THE government has drafted a Petroleum Bill which seeks to ensure that Ghanaians derive maximum benefit from the country’s oil and gas resources.
The bill also contains a framework to achieve local content and 90 per cent local participation in petroleum activities in the country by the year 2020.
Currently being scrutinised by the Attorney-General’s office, the bill underlines measures which enjoin operators in the oil industry to conform to the country’s laws, as well as operate within environmentally accepted limits, among others.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Minister of Energy, Dr Joe Oteng-Adjei, said under the bill, a Petroleum Regulatory Agency was expected to be established to oversee and monitor the activities of industry players as part of the government’s policy to ensure that Ghanaians derived maximum benefit from the oil find.
He explained that although the past New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration developed a policy which merged PNDC Law 84 and the Regulatory Framework, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) had decided to separate the two to make it simpler, clearer and more transparent for oil companies to access and make decisions.
The minister said local content and participation referred to the level of use of Ghanaian expertise, goods and services, people, businesses and financing in oil and gas activities.
He said a key development objective of the government was to grow the economy to rapidly achieve accelerated development and industrialisation, adding that the oil and gas industry was known to contribute significantly to the strong economic growth of countries that produced the two commodities.
“It is anticipated that the development of the oil and gas industry will be a source of accelerated growth, poverty reduction and general prosperity for the people of Ghana. The active involvement of Ghanaians in oil and gas development through local content and participation has become a major policy issue of the NDC government,” Dr Oteng-Adjei pointed out.
Consequently, the minister stated that the government would seek to provide the enabling environment and opportunities for Ghanaians to benefit from the economic wealth that emanated from the activities in the oil and gas industry through the participation of Ghanaians in the ownership, operation, control and management of the sector.
Dr Oteng-Adjei explained that his office would submit the draft bill to Cabinet for study and subsequently to Parliament for approval, while broad consultation with relevant stakeholders was currently ongoing on the framework on local content and local participation.
“We are acting as quickly as possible to ensure that all these structures are put in place before oil production begins in the last quarter of the year,” the minister said.
He gave the assurance the relevant bodies in the country, including the political parties, were being given the opportunity to study and make inputs into the local content framework.
He said other legal bodies were also looking at the bill to make the necessary recommendations.
He, therefore, debunked claims that the government had not put in place any legal structures to cater for the country’s oil industry.
Throwing more light on the local content policy, a Deputy Minister of Energy, Mr Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, said PNDC Law 84 only tackled issues on exploration and it was, therefore, imperative for the government to come up with more pragmatic measures to regulate the petroleum industry in a more effective manner now that oil had been discovered in commercial quantities.
In order to give effect to the implementation of the local content and local participation policy, these policy directions would be legislated by regulations and other such legal instruments, Mr Buah explained.
“A dedicated Petroleum Regulatory Agency, with the assistance of independent national local content committees, will be mandated to oversee and ensure the full implementation of the local content and local participation policy,” he explained.
According to Mr Buah, an Oil and Gas Business Development and Local Content Fund would be established to support local capacity development.
He further explained that the fund would be used primarily for education, training and research and development in oil and gas.
He said under the framework, sources of the fund would include contributions from licensed operators, oil and gas revenue, levies, grants and other forms of support from Ghana’s development partners.
Mr Buah said the Ministry of Energy would oversee the disbursement of the fund.