Norway removes EITI-support from budget in agreement with Uganda

Winnie is interviewed in front of the Norwegian parliament

The Norwegian programme Oil for Development removes a budget item regarding EITI in the partner agreement with Uganda. 

- We are disappointed with the Norwegian authorities, says Winnie Ngabiirwe of PWYP Uganda. 

Oil for Development (OfD) is a Norwegian development programme aiming to promote sustainable management of petroleum resources in developing countries. 

Uganda is one of the core countries of cooperation in the programme, which is run by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In mid-February, OfD and the Ugandan authorities agreed to remove a budget item to activities regarding EITI-preparation.

EITI is a transparency mechanism that requires extraction companies to disclose how much they have paid to governments, who in turn must disclose how much they have received. There are 26 EITI-compliant countries and 18 candidate countries.

Senior advisor at the Oil for Development-programme, Trond Kvarsvik, explains that the budget item of 20 000 USD was removed because of the uncertainty regarding whether the proposed activities would be carried out. 

- EITI was initially included in the Ugandan budget proposal, but during the budget discussions it became clear that the Ugandan authorities did not want to launch preparations to join the EITI until the Public Finance Bill has been approved. This law is still being discussed in Parliament, and it is difficult to say when it will reach a final agreement. We therefore agreed to remove this budget item, says Kvarsvik. 

The OfD-programme is demand-driven, meaning that a concrete initiative from the partner countries is a prerequisite for the activities included in the programme.

- We have long been encouraging the government to work towards implementing EITI. In addition, we have offered financing via the OfD-programme, but the authorities are not returning any concrete proposals of activities, says Kvarsvik. 

"Norwegian government should have put its foot down"

The story has already received attention in Uganda, through its coverage at the news site Oil in Uganda. Winnie Ngabiirwe of PWYP Uganda says she is disappointed with the Norwegian authorities. 

- Norwegian authorities have worked hard for transparency in the extractive industries here in Uganda. We in the civil society are therefore disappointed with the Norwegian authorities not putting their foot down and demanding that EITI should be a condition for support. If Norway did that, I think it would leave Ugandan authorities with little choice of ignoring EITI.

President Yoweri Museveni and finance minister Maria Kiwanuka have earlier pledged their support to EITI, saying Uganda will soon join the transparency standard.

- The latest development shows that the authorities are lying when they say that the EITI is still a priority, says Ngabiirwe.

She argues that the EITI provides the Ugandan civil society with a unique platform of cooperation between them, the state and the extractive companies. She points at the national Oil and Gas Policy from 2008, which provides for the implementation of EITI.

- Up to today, no single step has been taken in this direction. Civil society organisations, through the PWYP Uganda have advocated for EITI for more than 3 years. It is a vital platform where we can challenge the state and companies on how much money they are getting in, and what they are spending the money on.

Ugandan authorities argue that they first need to pass the new finance law in order to move towards EITI. Ngabiirwe says this law has some serious flaws.

- The current Public Finance Bill includes limited access to information, especially on revenues from the industry. The new law will lead to financial information being passed on to the parliament, but we cannot always trust that they will pass this on further to the civil society, sais Ngabiirwe.

The PWYP-network advocates EITI

- This is a complicated case, OfD is demand-driven, and Norwegian authorities cannot overide other countries, says Mona Thowsen, Secretary General of PWYP Norway. She does however worry over how this might affect the civil society in Uganda.

- This could complicate the work of Ugandan civil society. The civil society has a status as a formalized partner in a cooperation though EITI. Now the civil society is experiencing that they are being side tracked, because of a new law that they still do not know whether will bring more transparency, or not, says Thowsen.

PWYP Norway has been one of the supporters behind getting EITI implemented in Norway. In April this year, PWYP Norway will arrange the module 2 of the TRACE-programme in Uganda. One of the main topics of the module will be contract transparency, which is one of the new recommendations of the EITI-standard.

Museveni a controversial president of Uganda

The Oil for Development-programme is coordinated through Norad, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. It covers 18 countries; among those are 8 core countries of cooperation.

The total budget of OfD to Uganda in 2014 is of NOK 49 million, approximately USD 8 million. The Norwegian Embassy in Kampala manages the funds.

- We have still not received a payment request from Uganda this year, sais Elin G. Jensen, First Secretary on the norwegian embassy in Kampala, Uganda.

Norwegian aid to Uganda is a controversial topic. On the 24th of February, Uganda's president Museveni signed a law banning homosexuality. Norway responded by freezing aid payments, just like many other European countries.

- We will withhold approximately NOK 50 million from our cooperation with Uganda. At the same time, we will increase the support to advocates of human rights and democracy, said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Børge Brende.

- We do not know the practical implications of withholding NOK 50 millions, says Elin G. Jensen at the Norwegian embassy in Kampala.

The cooperation agreement between the Oil for Development-programme and Uganda expires by July 2014. Trond Kvarsvik at OfD says the cooperation will be evaluated by this spring.

The Norwegian departments responsible for the programme will consider extending the programme, if Uganda wishes a new phase of the cooperation.

It is therefore still uncertain whether OfD will continue the cooperation with Uganda following this summer.