The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) and OXFAM America have commended the Ghanaian President, John Evans Atta Mills, for his commitment to increased transparency and public participation in the oil sector.
They said President Mills' recognition of the need for the right institutions and transparent policies, could help Ghana avoid the corruption, underdevelopment, social conflict and environmental damage brought on by too many oil booms.
In a public announcement on February 28, 2009, President Mills called for a public disclosure of all present and future oil contracts, a review of the legal framework of the oil sector and wider public participation in decision-making around oil projects.
The President pledged to review the draft oil sector laws put in place by the previous government to ensure that necessary regulations and transparency measures are in place.
A statement issued in Accra noted that the announcement signifies a commitment from Ghana?s new government to build a transparent and accountable framework in the face of an oil boom, that could bring billions into the country and that they look forward to seeing the new policy implemented in Ghana.
"Indeed we believe that transparency, public participation and creating the governance structures to ensure that the President's directive is properly implemented would benefit not only Ghana but other oil and mineral exporting nations."
The release recalled that the President's announcement follows a recent report from ISODEC and OXFAM America, "Ghana's Big Test: Oil's Challenge to Democratic Development", which identified critical steps for the Government of Ghana, donors, oil companies, civil society and journalists to take, in order to move quickly but deliberately in the face of the coming oil boom.
Steps mentioned include transparent revenue and payment practices, open and competitive contract bidding and active participation by civil society.
The report also recommends a moratorium on new exploration licenses to allow the development of the legal and regulatory regime and government institutional capacity to keep pace with the development of the sector.
In addition, President Mills has promised accountability on the part of all public officials and asked Ghana's development partners and non-government agencies to support the government's efforts to build transparency and anti-corruption initiatives.
"This is an important step to preserve Ghana's record of good governance and stability by preparing Ghana to support accountable and efficient development of the oil industry and the billions in government revenue it will generate."
Ghana's recent discovery of the major offshore Jubilee Oil Field has generated enormous interest in the country's oil production. The World Bank has committed $215 million in financing to Kosmos Energy and Tullow Oil in support of he development of the Jubilee field.
The IMF predicts government revenues from oil and gas could reach a cumulative $20 billion over a production period of 2012-2030 in Jubilee Field alone.
ISODEC and OXFAM have pledged their readiness to work with government to improve governmental revenue, especially to review the minerals fiscal regime to ensure that mining companies pay more than the current minimum of three per cent royalties and to monitor the Jubilee Oil Field and other oil projects to ensure a maximum oil recovery at minimum cost.
"We are also ready to support government in the protection of the livelihoods of fisher folk and other communities around the jubilee oil field as well as large marine ecological zone of the Gulf of Guinea.