By Julius N. Uma
September 30, 2012 (JUBA) - The new agreement reached between South Sudan and Sudan on oil does not guarantee citizens the basic information they need to hold their governments accountable for the vast amounts of money involved, Global Witness said.
The two countries, last week, inked various agreements on several post-independence issues, following month of intense negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, under the facilitation of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
South Sudan, in January, shut down is oil production after a dispute with Khartoum, but the newly reached deal now permits the young nation to export its crude oil via Sudan’s pipelines and port.
Dana Wilkins, a Global Witness campaigner said while the new agreement establishes mechanisms for internal information sharing and auditing, the deal still falls short of requirements for transit and financial data or audit reports to be made public.
“Sudan and South Sudan’s citizens are the ultimate owners of their countries’ natural resources,” said Wilkins, adding that, Yet they have been totally cut out of this new oil deal, with no way to verify the amount of oil and money that will be transferred between their governments,”
This lack of public accountability, she further said, is particularly concerning given the allegations of “high-level corruption” both governments face.
South Sudan, under the newly agreed deal, will be required to pay between US$9.10 and US$11 per barrel of oil for using Sudan’s processing facilities, pipelines, and port, depending on the route by which the crude oil is piped out.
In addition, Juba has also agreed to transfer an extra US$3 billion to help Khartoum fill the gap in its finances caused by the loss of oil reserves now controlled by South Sudan.
The new oil deal, according to documents seen by Sudan Tribune, also establishes a Petroleum Monitoring Committee, which will be responsible for monitoring the operational and financial implementation of the arrangement.
This committee will comprises both government officials and those from independent bodies, while the two countries also agreed to appoint an independent auditor to report on the operating companies and identify any problems.
However, although the new agreement also includes an article on transparency, Global Witness says the provision only requires that the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments be ‘mutually transparent’, but ignores public accountability aspects.
“The absence of real transparency---meaning full public disclosure---in this new deal could have long-term consequences for democracy and stability in both countries,” said Wilkins.
“South Sudan has included many strong public reporting and accounting requirements in its new legal framework. It is now all the more important that these are implemented without further delay,” she added.
Meanwhile, Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) also calls upon both Juba and Khartoum to resume the oil production with full commitment to the principles of accountability and transparency.
CEPO, however, warns that any oil activity carried out without taking to consideration the environment and communities living within the oil fields could impact negatively on the country.
"The lives of the citizens in both states should be treated far from the political difference that may occur during the agreement implementation period," said CEPO in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.