Ugandan MPs Attend Training on Oil Bill

On 22 and 23 September, Revenue Watch and local partner Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) hosted two workshops, for civil society and parliamentarians, on Uganda's new oil bill, which would increase parliament's governance and oversight roles. Both workshops focused on the existing oil bill and how participants can fight in their separate roles for improved legislation and advocate for its speedy tabling in parliament.

The training came amid heated public debate about the petroleum bill. The bill is still in draft form and advocates have called for revisions that would better reflect the guiding principles of the national oil and gas policy; criticism has also been raised by both civil society and industry. Parliamentarians, including participants in the training, spoke on the radio in the days we were there, and stories on the bill surfaced in all the daily newspapers.

This week, Uganda has been awash with news stories about parliament moving on oil issues. MPs have galvanized and are demanding change in relation to the oil bill. And on 11 October, Ugandan legislators blocked a contract with Tullow Oil, claiming that the UK-based company paid bribes to influence decisions.

That day, the parliament voted to suspend all new deals in the oil sector, following claims that government ministers took multi-million dollar bribes. Many say this vote is a blow to President Yoweri Museveni's power, since he had previously controlled all decisions related to the country's oil governance. The suspension means that Uganda's government will not be able to sign new oil agreements until the petroleum law is enacted. In recent weeks, MPs have been demanding greater transparency in the oil sector and pushing the government to disclose what they claim are secret deals with the oil sector. The vote was carried with the backing of ruling party MPs.

Winnie Ngabiirwe, Executive Director of Global Rights Alert and Chair of PWYP Uganda, attended both the civil society and parliamentarian workshops and commended the legislature. "PWYP-Uganda is greatly impressed with our parliamentary debates and resolutions, aimed at cleaning and strengthening our oil and gas sector," she wrote. "This is a positive step towards ensuring accountability and transparency. Uganda cannot afford to lose one more dollar to corruption because it has cost us a lot in terms of poor service delivery and loss of lives. I am particularly impressed that the debate was bipartisan and we hope that this unity in discussing issues of national importance will be maintained."

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