Uganda Energy Ministry Must expedite Implementation of National Local content Policy—Expert Local

By Dickens Kamugisha….

I would like to congratulate Ugandans for having successfully elected a president and their parliamentary representatives.

To the winners and losers, I say we embark on the task of building the Uganda we want. Among these tasks is holding government accountable for its actions or lack thereof.

Before we went to the polls, the ministry of energy and mineral development published a report Progress of the implementation of the National Oil and Gas Policy for Uganda that appeared both in newspapers and on their website.

I want to commend the ministry for this because publishing the report and other information pertaining to the oil and gas sector enables Ugandans to one, keep updated on the sector and two, check on government.

That said, I want Ugandans to join me to task the ministry of energy to account for its failure to implement recommendations made to it by the auditor general in a June 2015 report, Implementation of National Content in the oil and gas sector by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

When the ministry published its aforementioned report, it showed that it was taking steps to ensure national content, a.k.a local content. Among the steps taken to realize this is putting in place a national content office at the ministry, setting up an association of oil and gas service providers (AOGAS) in Uganda and formulating a national content policy and plan which is expected to be approved in 2016.

The ministry also said that draft national content regulations for the upstream and midstream acts have been prepared. The ministry painted a promising picture reporting that the oil and gas sector employed “over 1,000 Ugandans during 2013/14, with each of the licensed companies [Tullow, Total E&P and Cnooc] having more than 50% of its staff as Ugandans” and that over “1,000 national enterprises [which have employed more than 9,000 Ugandans] have provided services such as logistics, civil works, environment consulting services, catering and hotel accommodation”, among others to companies in the oil and gas sector.

Looking at the above steps, one feels that the ministry has taken positive steps, but has it done enough?

The previously-mentioned June 2015 auditor general’s report made critical recommendations for effective realisation of national content, which the ministry seems to have failed on.

The report recommended that the ministry “spearhead[s] the coordination between educational institutions, ministry of education and sports, ministry of gender, labour and social development and oil companies to ensure timely, relevant and sufficient training of Ugandans for the sector, taking into account gender and host-community considerations”.

Has the ministry done as the auditor general recommended? They do not tell us in their published report, and based on our interaction with host communities in Hoima and students undertaking oil and gas studies at universities and oil-courses-offering institutions, little efforts are being made to enable Ugandans take up jobs even in the lowest rungs of the oil and gas sector.

Students are offered impractical courses; and as for the host communities, including women, government is merely displacing them left, right and centre for, yes, fundamental projects such as that of the refinery. Without studying, frustrated by land grabbers and mistreated by government, how will host communities acquire skills for the oil sector?

I think Ugandans have seen media reports saying oil companies are not buying products from host communities because they are substandard. Government needs to implement the above auditor general’s recommendation to realise meaningful national content.

The ministry of energy reports that “draft national content regulations for the upstream and midstream acts have … been prepared” but is silent on the urgent matter of when they will be approved yet the auditor general calls for the expeditious approval of the regulations.

Without the regulations, enforcement of the laws providing for “utilisation of Ugandan goods and services, employment and training of Ugandans by oil companies and their sub-contractors” is hindered.

Approval of the regulations is, therefore, a most urgent matter. The auditor general also asked the ministry to ensure “that there are uniform succession periods for all companies, and timely replacement of expatriates with qualified nationals as per the succession plans”. But does the ministry tell us whether it is implementing this recommendation? It does not!

While we commend the ministry for the work done to realise national content, we call on it to update us on how far it has implemented the above recommendations and it should implement those that it has not.

Dickens Kamugisha is the Executive director of African Institute For Energy and Governance (AFIEGO) Uganda 

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