Vows to ensure national wealth benefits all
By Omar Bah
The Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Abdoulie Jobe, has assured local and regional stakeholders of government’s commitment to ensure transparency and accountability in this country’s extractive industry.
The sector has been bedeviled with allegations of lack of transparency, unaccountability by government and other private operators since the Yahya Jammeh dictatorship. Parliamentary and other enquires have many times centered on establishing how much government is earning from the mining or who is mining what precious sand or stone while local communities hosting mining sites have often complained of disproportionate compensation if any from mining companies ravaging their environments.
But addressing a five-day multi-stakeholder consultative workshop on Extractive Industries (EI) Accountability organised by the National Audit Office in collaboration with the African Organisation of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E), Minister Jobe said the government is committed to strengthen accountability and transparency in the industry.
“To safeguard accountability and transparency on revenue from the solid minerals, government has created a system that ensures that all revenues generated from mining and quarrying activities are paid into government central revenue systems managed by the Accountant General’s Department. These funds are also subjected to normal routine government’s accounting and auditing processes by NAO,” he said.
Minister Jobe expressed hope that the outcome of the engagement will provide tangible recommendations on the much needed requisite reforms to bring about change in the governance of Gambia’s mineral resources for economic growth.
He added that accountability is one of the building blocks of good governance and a key requirement in transforming the country’s natural resources into tangible and intangible capital for broader economic and social development.
“My Ministry envisages in its strategic plan, to ensure accountability, transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of the country’s mineral resources to underpin broad based sustainable growth and socio-economic development,” he stated.
He said research has shown that, “there is a strong correlation between social cohesion, stability and even conflicts, with how well such natural resources are governed”. Consequently, he added, “accountability in the extractive industry should be everybody’s concern”.
“So, the government has put in place governance and regulatory mechanisms to ensure effective management of these valued resources by developing and enhancing institutional and legal frameworks, processes, procedures and building the requisite enhancing institutional and requisite competences to promote ‘accountability’ in these two sub-sectors,” he added.
Jobe further disclosed that government has also created the environment that promotes the principles of openness and subjects license applications to vigorous public scrutiny which includes landowners’ consent, compensation, and environmental approval prior to the consideration of a mining quarrying license.
“Also, during the environmental impact assessment or phase of mining and quarrying projects, a wider stakeholder consultation including local communities are held to have a more open, transparent and public participation in decision making prior to granting mining approval,” he added.
He said the Ministry has created several NGOs and CSOs, as watchdogs on the implementation of mining and quarrying license agreements to promote the protection of the environment.
Minister Jobe added that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been developed on royalty sharing from revenues generated from quarrying operations.
“Parties to this MoU include MOPE, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Local Government, and the National Environment Agency and is aimed at consolidating transparency and accountability for greater revenue accountability and involvement of civil society by guaranteeing that 20% of the royalty from all quarrying operations is plough back to the local community through the Local Governments and councils,” he stated.
Addressing the meeting on behalf of the Auditor General, the deputy Auditor General 2, Buba Drammeh said: “Extractive Industries are considered by most countries including the Gambia as potential catalyst for economic development, and there is a determined effort to develop the sector and to make it more attractive to investors. Therefore, the audit of extractive industries (EI) has received increased attention within the INTOSAI community.”
He argued that poor governance of natural resources has often led to corruption and conflict.
“More transparency and public scrutiny of how wealth from a country’s extractive sector is used and managed is necessary to ensure that natural resources benefit all. With good governance and transparent management, the revenues from El can have an impact on reducing poverty while respecting community needs and the environment,” he added.