Prof Sospeter Muhongo, Tanzania’s Minister of Energy and Minerals, speaking in parliament last week, said that there was no way his ministry would submit gas contracts to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament. This is despite the PAC having repeatedly requested the Tanzanian Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) to provide copies of the 26 Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) the government has signed with oil and gas exploration companies. And despite the arrest (briefly) of the TPDC Chair and acting Executive Director for refusing to comply, on the orders of the PAC chair, Zitto Kabwe.
Here’s what Prof Muhongo said:
“We have to adhere to government regulations. We cannot subject the contracts to public discussions, because they are regulations in place governing them. Even contracts between individuals, like yourself and somebody else must be governed by certain rules.”
There are no terms relating to confidentiality or transparency in the Statoil PSA Addendum that was leaked a few months ago. But this is inconclusive, as the leak only revealed the Addendum to the original PSA, not the full document.
But the launch, last week by OpenOil, of a repository of publicly available oil and gas contracts by OpenOil, provides another opportunity to see whether these contracts typically include confidentiality / transparency clauses. The repository includes one PSA for Tanzania, signed in 2001 between TPDC and PanAfrican Energy Tanzania Ltd, who run the Songo Songo gas field. This has been available since 2006 as part of the public filings of PanAfrica’s Canadian parent company, Orca Exploration Group, with Canadian regulators.
The contract was downloaded over 5,000 times in the first 24 hours after bring posted by OpenOil, so there is clearly public demand to see it. And just three days later, PanAfrican Energy Tanzania posted the PSA on their own website. Presumably they recognised that there’s no point trying to keep it hidden any longer, and possibly they were also embarrassed that something people could easily access elsewhere was not available on their own site.
So does the PanAfrican contract have any confidentiality or transparency terms? Yes it does:
“PanAfrican Tanzania or TPDC, as the case may be, may disclose such information as is required by law or appropriate regulatory authorities, or to prospective lenders or shareholders”
In other words, if the law says the contract should be disclosed, or if a regulatory body (such as PAC) requires it, then the contract says that this is permitted.
In both the model PSAs, the terms are exactly the same:
data, information and interpretations may be disclosed by Contractor to:
(ii) comply with statutory obligation or the requirements of any governmental agency or the rules of a stock exchange on which a Party’s stock is publicly traded in which case the disclosing Party will notify the other Parties of any information so disclosed prior to such disclosure
So again, if the law or any government agency says a contract should be disclosed, there is no contractual reason why this should not happen.
It’s in both these model PSAs and in the only actual PSA we can see in its entirety (PanAfrican), so it seems likely that it’s in all the signed PSAs. On this evidence, there is probably nothing in any of them that prevents TPDC from providing them to parliament.
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- Centre for Global Development, Working Group on Contract Publication: Publishing Government Contracts: Addressing Concerns and Easing Implementation
- Open Contracting
- The Citizen Editorial: Give us a break, Muhongo!:
“Unless the government practises good governance, which revolves around transparency, it might as well kiss goodbye the idea of commanding popular support. What is it exactly that is stipulated in those PSAs that it has to be kept secret even from the people’s representatives?”
And take a look at the front page of HabariLeo newspaper this morning:
Remember that this is a government-owned newspaper. The headline: “Oil and gas contracts are now required in parliament.” The article itself focusses on the Chair of the parliamentary committee on Economics, Trade and Industry, Luhaga Mpina, calling for contracts to be provided to parliament.