A new petroleum bill to allow the sector Minister to directly negotiate petroleum blocks with investors has caused a stir in Parliament.
Minority Members of Parliament (MP)s say the Exploration and Petroleum Bill is open to abuse because the Minister could negotiate deals in his own private interest.
In Parliament Thursday, Joy News’ Elton Brobbey reported that some MPs have filed motions to cause an amendment to the Bill.
Although the Bill allows for a competitive public tendering process for companies looking to manage oil rigs, the bill creates exceptions.
In the first of two exceptions, the bill states that direct negotiation may occur if an area offered for public tender is not subject to a petroleum agreement.
The second instance is when the Petroleum Minister in consultation with the Petroleum Commission determines that direct negotiation will ensure the “most efficient and optimal exploitation of petroleum of a particular area”.
In an attempt at transparency, the bill requires the Minister to publish an Invitation to Tender or Invitation to Direct Negotiation in the gazette and in at least two national dailies.
Like the Public Procurement law which allows for sole sourcing under certain circumstances, the Bill allows for direct negotiation under these two circumstances.
But as sole sourcing has been severely abused, the bill if passed could lead to cronyism, the MPs fear.
After it was withdrawn in November 2014, the bill landed in Parliament again on June 16.
The bill is the final piece of legislation that will go a long way in determining if Ghana’s oil find in 2007 will be a blessing or a curse.
The long delay in passing the bill has been described as a shocking waste of time.
An energy think-tank, the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) suspects that the delay is part of attempts to ensure that oil contracts are continuously pushed through the House without the appropriate transparency measures.