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Ghana should repay $3.8 million to Global Fund in faulty condom deal


Lauren Gelfand
December 11,  2014

condoms1

 

 

Tender for more than 120 million condoms was riddled with fraud — and the goods were bad

Ghana’s Ministry of Health spent some $3.8 million of a Global Fund grant on faulty condoms procured in a tender that was riddled with fraud, the Office of the Inspector General has found. In addition to developing a plan to recover the funds, the Secretariat will be placing all purchasing for Ghana under the pooled procurement mechanism and requiring greater oversight by the local fund agent.

The investigation report published on 11 December confirmed that the procurement of 128 million male condoms purchased for the Ghana Health Service between 2010 and 2013 were “substandard, over-priced and bought through a non-competitive tender process involving forged documents”.

The tendering process was flawed from the outset, according to the report. Advertised only locally for a very short time period, the bid was whittled down to a single source with the immediate disqualification of two other bidders. An evaluation by the Ghana Central Tender Board was not reviewed, making the process decidedly untransparent.

Only a month after the bid was approved, the MoH agreed to a 35% per unit cost increase — an increase worth nearly $1 million over what had been a fixed-price contract that was ostensibly not subject to adjustments. According to the investigation, there is no evidence that the supplier, Global Unilink, provided the Ghana Health Service with documentation including market-pricing data to justify the price increase.

Moreover, the tender was predicated on the provision of falsified documents. Global Unilink provided misleading information related to where the condoms were manufactured, including a falsified manufacturer’s certificates that declared the condom manufacturer was WHO-certified.

This led to the other major problem: the condoms were of decidedly inferior quality. The investigation confirmed that the supplier did not source the product from a WHO-certified manufacturer, as it had been contracted to do. The purchased prophylactics did not meet WHO specifications or standards, even though the samples submitted during the tender for quality tests did come from a WHO-certified manufacturer. What this means is that quality condoms were provided for testing and low-quality ones supplied for use.

These quality issues came to light when end users reported that they burst too easily, did not contain enough lubricant and, according to one Ghanaian media report, were not big enough.

Why the Ghana Health Service failed to continue to carry out quality control tests on the Be Safe condoms remains to be seen; going forward, Aidspan understands from the Global Fund Secretariat: “the Secretariat will provide the Ghana Food and Drug Authority with advance notice of the dispatch of critical health products and commodities procured for Global Fund programs from whatever source. The LFA will verify the quality testing has been conducted before distribution.”

Other safeguards have been put in place, specifically related to the procurement of health products and commodities for Ghana. Since 2012, Ghana has been enrolled in the pooled procurement mechanism and global drug facility, meaning that ARVs, HIV test kits, drugs and diagnostic kits for malaria and TB drugs are all now procured by the Global Fund on Ghana’s behalf. The MoH is now only responsible for the procurement of products such as gloves and cotton swabs.

The Secretariat should pursue the recovery of the full $3.84 million spent on the faulty condoms — funds that Ghana itself has since 2013 been seeking from the supplier, Global Unilink, according to Ghanaian media reports.

A majority of the faulty condoms remain undistributed, stored in an MoH warehouse that, itself, has been subject to major scrutiny for the poor quality and conditions. In one Ghanaian media report, the facility was described as having a leaky roof and poor temperature controls — less than ideal conditions even at the best of times. The condoms are to be withdrawn and destroyed by the MoH and Ghana Health Service in line with “international procedural and environmental regulations” — whether this will happen is unclear.

Ghana has a generalized HIV prevalence rate of under 2% but within certain key populations, including commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men, the rate is considerably higher. Results from a demographic and health survey supported by the Global Fund should be published in 2015: the best way to determine whether there has been an increase in infection rates. It will not, however, be possible, to make any causatory inference that a spike in infections is due to the use of these problematic prophylactics.

New Procurement Procedures to Help South Africa’s Small Solar Developers


Solar Novus Today

Shem Oirere

September 22, 2014

South Africa has raised the hopes of small solar PV developers with projects of less than 5MW, after proposing a dedicated fund to enable them meet their capital expenditure.

The Department of Energy has also announced changes to the procurement procedures Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) to enable Small Independent Power Producers (IPPs) cut on costs.

The developers could soon find alternative funding after big lenders shunned them for larger projects under REIPPPP, which hopes to generate 1,450MW of solar PV by 2030. The 20-year $645 billion program is also expected to generate an additional 2,275MW from onshore wind, concentrated solar thermal, biomass solid, biogas, landfill and small hydro.

Reducing transaction costs

The fund for small renewable projects could be up and running by February next year, according to top government officials, for the  benefit of projects being developed under the Small Independent Power Producer Programme with a combined capacity of 200MW. No allocation has been given for each of the renewable energy technologies for this particular category of projects.

Energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, says the financing of projects with a capacity of less 5MW is a major challenge, but pledged government intervention in ensuring development of standard documents for the projects “to reduce transaction costs.”

She confirmed South Africa is working at a proposal for a dedicated fund to assist small IPPs with transaction costs.

“This will ensure that new entrepreneurs can also enter the renewable energy IPP market. I want to give the small IPP entities and developers the assurance that the fund will be up and running by February 2015, in time for the second round (of small IPP procurement).”

The fund will be established with the support of the German government-owned development bank KfW. The bank will make the funds available to the government on concessionary terms to enable beneficiaries to achieve their project objectives.

The Department of Energy explains that the Small Independent Power Producer Programme, whose first request for proposals was released in August 2013, is “to allow South African citizens who are, or who own or control, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and/or emerging, smaller power developers an opportunity to participate in the Renewable Energy generation sector”

The programme also affords South African power generation equipment manufacturers, “who may not have international certification the opportunity to supply equipment for the projects procured under the Small Projects IPP Procurement Programme.”

Effective implementation of the small IPP programme will also make it possible “to limit the cost‐at‐risk incurred by bidders through participating in the Small Projects IPP Procurement Programme in two stages.”

Reducing costs of procurement

Apart from the push for a dedicated fund to cushion small IPPs from high project costs, the government has also announced drastic changes to the procurement process to make it cheaper for the “little” developers to bring their projects on board within timelines.

Senior project adviser in the Private Public Partnership at the National Treasury, Karen Breytenbach, says the department of energy would make the changes before the fourth bidding round in November.

“To reduce costs incurred in submitting tender documents, the department would reduce the number of documents required,” she said.

“We are also going to change the request for proposal to make it less expensive for small IPPs to bid. We are looking at ways for bidders to submit their bids without going through sourcing support letters from banks.”

The amendments to the bidding process and proposal for fund for small-scale renewable energy projects come barely months after developers raised concerns over the requirement that they, too, be subjected to the high compliance costs under the department of energy’s REIPPPP for projects bigger than 5MW.

South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvica) Vice-Chairperson, Mike Levington, said in an interview with the Engineering News online magazine two months ago that lack of capacity in the debt market to fund smaller IPPs is a challenge because banks are not keen on them.

“Delays in the procurement processes, such as the delay in announcing the dates of the bid windows for the small-scale IPP programme, places financial strain on companies and small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises in particular,” Levington said.

The small IPPs were also subject to compliance costs that included the $4,923 that is payable to South Africa power utility Eskom for estimate letters, which gives details on how a particular project could be connected to the grid.

South African Renewable Energy Council chairperson Johan van den Berg said, “This relatively high compliance cost has a significant impact on the price that smaller projects require to be feasible.”

Until the pledge by the Department of Energy on changes to procurement of small IPPs is honoured, the project developers are subjected to the same application process like those constructing projects of larger capacity, which the industry stakeholders argue disadvantages them.

Levington said the proposed changes to RFP for the fourth round would “hopefully be extended to the small-scale IPP process in the future.”

Eskom had previously defended the estimate letter charges saying the utility has to recover its costs related to “detailed engineering, pricing and legal work to produce the cost estimates.”

“Between the first three bid windows (of the REIPPPP), Eskom processed in excess of 1,000 cost estimate letters without direct cost recovery from the potential IPPs and, therefore, this cost had to be recovered from all customers,” Eskom was quoted saying in a previous statement.

“Many of these IPPs eventually never submitted bids (for) the government procurement programme. Preparation of a cost estimate letter requires network planning and grid studies to be conducted and this is followed by a vetting process involving pricing and legal teams,” it said.

South Africa leading in PV development

Meanwhile, South Africa has now been ranked among the top 10 global leaders in solar PV development according to a July release by wiki-solar.org, which monitors deployment of utility-scale projects globally.

The country has deployed 15 solar PV plants with capacity of 503MW under the REIPPPP.  The projects include SolarReserve‘s 75MW Lesedi and 75MW Letsatsi in the Northern Cape and Free State provinces respectively.

Others are Norwegian-based firm Scatec Solar‘s 75MW Kalkbult solar plant near Petrusville in the Northern Cape, Globeleq consortium’s 50MW De Aar and 50MW Droogfontein solar plants near De Aar and Kimberley in the Northern Cape, US company SunPower‘s 22 MW Herbert and 11 MW Greefspan solar plants in the Northern Cape, which it owns jointly with Spain’s AMDA energy and South Africa’s Alt-E Technologies.

Separately, small rooftop solar PV installers in South Africa have also raised concern over the lack of legislation which hampers the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from deploying the technology to its full potential.

South African subsidiary of German solar PV mounting systems specialist,Schletter, said in July the Department of Energy should make changes to the legislation around the solar PV industry to enable that small power producers “feed power into the grid structure.”

The company’s South Africa head electrical engineer Mr Abdul-Khaaliq Mohamed said, “Grid energy management and metering must be upgraded and legislation should be revised to enable SMEs and property owners with rooftop solar PV systems to sell their excess power to the national grid.”

Mohamed said South Africa’s solar PV rooftop market is picking up in tandem with the growing number of SMEs and industries – this mainly as response to the increase in tariffs by the country’s power utility, Eskom and a desire to save more on electricity costs.

“If all SMEs strive to have solar PV cater for 20-30% of their energy needs this will reshape South Africa’s energy mix and make a massive difference to the country’s carbon footprint, thereby ensuring a sustainable energy supply for future generations.”

Written by Shem Oirere, a freelance writer based in Nairobi who specialises in renewable energy.

SCE inks S$8.8m deal with Mauritius


The Business Time

July 11, 2013

By Angela Tan

SINGAPORE Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), an integrated arm of International Enterprise Singapore, said on Thursday that it has signed an S$8.8 million contract with the Government of Mauritius, to provide advisory services for the procurement of the Mauritius Light Rapid Transit (MLRT).

Under the contract, SCE will gather experts from SMRT International Pte Ltd and Aurecon Singapore Pte Ltd as the Transaction and Technical Advisors for the programme.

The Singapore team has already conducted business case; planning and reference design in Stage 1 and the new contract will form Stage 2 of the project.

It will ensure that the delivery scenarios reflect policy and legal requirements based on international best practices; and that the Public-Private Partnership structure will be acceptable to market and be bankable

 

Fixing Fraud in Public-Private Projects


Blogs.WorldBank.org

BY LEONARD MCCARTHY

What’s a cash-tight government to do when it wants to modernize a hospital, build a railway, or expand the power grid to reach underserved areas? It might explore outside, private sources of financing—that’s where public-private partnerships (PPPs) come in.   The acronym has a promising ring to it, yet going back to the 1970s, its impact has been mixed.  At their best, PPPs can provide rapid injections of cash from private financiers, delivery of quality services, and overall cost-effectiveness the public sector can’t achieve on its own.

But at their worst, PPPs can also drive up costs, under-deliver services, harm the public interest, and introduce new opportunities for fraud, collusion, and corruption.  Our experience at the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency is that because PPPs most often are geared toward providing essential public services in infrastructure, health and education, the integrity risks inherent in these sectors also transfer to PPPs.

On April 17, the Integrity Vice Presidency convened a public discussion on corruption in PPPs (pdf) bringing together finance, energy, and fairness-monitoring perspectives.  Looking at the landscape, in the last eight years, 134 developing countries have implemented PPPs in infrastructure, and in the last decade the World Bank has approved some $23 billion lending and risk guarantee operations in support of PPPs.

Opening the event, World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani recounted examples from her previous life as Indonesia’s Minister of Finance. She reminded the audience that while fraud in PPPs can seem abstract, the quality, safety, and human costs are very real—such as when a bridge crumbles after only five years, though it was supposedly built to last 15.

CBS News State Department correspondent, Margaret Brennan, moderated the discussion and did not let panelists get away with being too polite. She tried to pinpanelists (pdf) down on which countries consistently faced the biggest corruption problem, and how we can fix it.  As my colleague Rashad Kaldany, Vice President and COO at IFC said, “This happens everywhere in the world, all countries, bar none.” The problem is global, which is why the solutions also should be similarly global and applicable in diverse situations.

If there was a theme to the discussion, it was the desire to level the playing field with global standards on PPP transparency. Roger Bridges, president of Knowles Consulting in Canada,  suggested the World Bank design a certification system for transparency and governance. Receiving that certification would be completely voluntary, but also demonstrate a credible commitment and capacity for internal governance.  Roger said that ultimately the certification could be rolled into an overall grading system for PPP participants.  Participants might, for example, receive 10 out of a possible total of 100 points for being certified.  A carrot—not a stick.

Rashad suggested an initiative in the integrity area modeled on the Equator Principles. Start with a few, major international players who agree to standardized practices and principles in PPPs. Once established, media and civil society groups can help mobilize others to sign on, gradually expanding adherence to the principles until they become a broadly accepted norm of conduct.

Establishing new norms sounds like it could take forever, but attitudes and norms can change faster than you think—Paul Clifford said in the past 8 to 10 years he has seen “difficult conversations” with clients about conforming to the Equator principles’ environmental and social standards become accepted as “automatic.”

Corruption is deliberate, serious and bad business.  Based on the discussion yesterday, I believe there would be broad support for what I like to call Global Integrity Principles. PPPs are inherently opaque and risky because they are often long-term, complex financial arrangements. Those risks can be reduced if the terms, costs, and benefits are made more understandable and accessible to governments, private parties, and consumers.

The questions we want to address at the World Bank are, specifically:  How should integrity due diligence be adapted for PPPs?  What do integrity principles in national PPP laws look like? What should regulators do to review concession and other related arrangements for red flags? Are additional disclosure requirements needed to flush out politically exposed persons? And finally, how do we obtain more effective public scrutiny of PPP deals throughout the PPP project cycle?

No doubt, we have a number of difficult and complex issues to sort out.  The way forward is to embrace optimism, even though in 1911 Ambrose Bierce described it as an intellectual disorder.

All South Africa construction majors ‘involved’ in collusion, price-fixing – Patel


Engineering News

By: Natalie Greve

11th April 2013

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has said that all the major South African civil engineering and construction companies currently active in the sector have been involved in infrastructure-related collusion and price-fixing.

“This problem is huge and pervasive in the infrastructure space,” he said at the inaugural Project and Construction Management Professions Conference on Thursday.

The State reportedly lost billions of rands through large-scale collusion and price-fixing by private sector companies during several past infrastructure projects, which instigated investigations by the Competition Commission into several completed public build projects.

These enquiries, which included investigations into the Gautrain project and several stadium developments, uncovered substantial evidence of collusion and price fixing by private sector participants, the Minister noted.

In cases involving critical projects, a number of companies came forward to acknowledge their involvement in the unlawful practises, Patel added.

“We have received about 400 admissions of incidents of collusion by companies in the sector,” he commented.

South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) president Professor Raymond Nkado said he was “shocked” that registered members of the SACPCMP had been found to have been involved.

“As a council, we have decided that we might take additional disciplinary action against these [companies],” he said.

Fast-Track Process
Based on the evidence gleaned from the commission’s investigations, which indicated the pervasiveness of the involvement by private companies, it was decided to introduce a “fast-track settlement process”, which would avoid lengthy legal processes that could persist for up to eight years, and which Patel said could potentially distract the project management process.

“We approached the industry and said we were prepared to put a voluntary disclosure process on the table, which would bring this to a conclusion expeditiously. In return, what is required is full disclosure, a commitment to end the cartels and an acceptance that the law must take its course,” he explained.

Once the disclosure process had been completed and admission of guilt received, the commission would then determine appropriate fines or penalties related to the value of the project.

Several such processes between the Competition Commission and private companies were currently under way, with most in the final stages, where the extent of the penalty was being determined in cases where organisations were “improperly enriched”.

Patel added that the first company to come forward and admit collusion would receive preferential treatment in terms of the penalty levied.

“We also take into account the extent of cooperation, so that there is an incentive to come clean. However, these companies will still have to pay substantial penalties as prescribed by the Competition Act,” he cautioned.

In cases where investigations implicated public servants, this information would be referred to law enforcement agencies.

There would be public disclosure once settlements had been reached.

Incentivisation

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi added that the findings of the investigation challenged the common perception that corruption and malgovernance was only pervasive in the public sector.

“The opinion that only government has such problems has been proved incorrect. There are huge problems in the private sector and we must expose them,” he said, encouraging the private sector to engage in “self reflection”.

Nxesi noted that key to the prevention of corruption in infrastructure projects was the establishment of a strong financial system, transparent procurement processes and incentivisation.

Moreover, Patel advised that the competition authorities had used the findings of the investigations to identify networks and channels used by companies in collusive practises and had identified the lead players and managers.

This would be used to develop internal preventive controls to reduce the opportunity for future collusion.

In addition, Patel said the CEO of any company awarded an infrastructure tender would be required to sign an “integrity pact” that committed them to competitive and noncorrupt practises and to create a culture in their organisation in which anticompetitive behaviour was discouraged.

“This will require executives to commit personal responsibility and liability,” he said.

The integrity pact was currently being piloted in a number of infrastructure tenders and would be fully implemented throughout the course of this year.

Patel said it was critical that the new phase of national infrastructure development not be characterised by similar high levels of collusion and price-fixing.

“Companies will have to make an important calculation. In the past, they thought collusion was a no-brainer; that they would secure the contract and walk away with the money. Now they see that we have developed the investigatory capacity to track the evidence down and to bring companies to book. That is the most important breakthough for us,” he said.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn

Kenya: Minutes reveal how IEBC bought pollbooks


Standard Digital

By Moses Michira and Paul Wafula

March 26, 2013

NAIROBI, KENYAThe electoral commission, which conducted the March 4 General Election, bought voter identification gadgets without testing their technical capability.

Face Technology, the South African firm that supplied the equipment also known as poll books, won the tender before a technical evaluation was conducted among the five prequalified bidders.

A review of the tendering procedure by the public procurement regulator found out the tender to supply poll books was awarded to the South African firm, which participated in the Anglo Leasing scandal, on September 29 last year, three weeks before the technical evaluation among the shortlisted bidders.

This major procurement breach ensured firms that were to later demonstrate their capabilities for the task, like America’s Avante and France’s Safran Morpho were left out.

The public procurement regulator, however, found out IEBC had actually made its decision to award the tender to Face Technology more than three weeks before the October 22 demonstration of technical capabilities.

Minutes from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC and presented by Avante to the regulator indicated that the tender was actually awarded on September 29.

“…bidder number 3 M/S Face Technology be considered for the award of the contract at a total cost of Sh1.397724925 ($16651139.13),” reads part of the official information from IEBC’s September 29 meeting.

The regulator says since a decision had been made, the exercise of proof of concept was meaningless becauseFace Technology, whose devise had failed, had been shockingly declared the winner. The revelation now provides the critical answers to the billion-dollar question, what exactly went wrong in the voter identification during the last General Election conducted by IEBC?

The public procurement regulator fell short of cancelling IEBC’s tender, only allowing it to proceed in the greater public interest considering the time left, on its December 3, last year, terse ruling. IEBC’s defence was that Face Technology had the lowest quote at Sh1.39 billion disregarding its inability to produce the required equipment, compared to Safran Morpho’s Sh1.6 billion and Avante’s Sh2.1 billion.

Questionable tendering

IEBC’s motivation in awarding the tender to Face Technology was questioned by the regulator who established an uneven playing ground in the procurement process. Face Technology had presented a prototype that never worked at the tendering stage, but the IEBC inexplicably offered the firm another chance to demonstrate its technical capability.

A meeting between IEBC and the three prequalified bidders held on October 10, last year indicated Safran Morpho declined to parade its prototype, while Face Technology’s equipment fell short of the requirements in the tender document.

“(Avante’s prototype) can satisfactorily meet the specifications provided in the tender document for voter identification device,” further reads the report. “( Face Technology) did not demonstrate a prototype that met the proof of concept requirements as stipulated in the tender document.”

IEBC invited Face Technology and Safran Morpho in a subsequent demonstration, leaving out Avante, which had demonstrated its technical capacity, in a meeting held on October 22. Minutes of the meeting show Face Technology presented a different device from that submitted during the close of the tender, a major procurement breach, which the IEBC turned a blind eye to.

During the evaluation,Face Technologyprovided a prototype device, which lacked a spare power back-up of 12 hours that was marked as critical. It also did not have an original battery attached to the laptops that would last for 12 hours.

The device it supplied at this stage did not meet the requirement that its start-up and recovery time would last less than 30 seconds. This means the prototype ofFace Technology was taking longer to start than required. None of the companies that qualified for the second round of evaluation also provided gadgets that had unique identification numbers assigned by the manufacturers. Lack of this detail exposes the gadgets to difficulties in tracing the user and location in case they are used to hack into the system. The Board accuses the IEBC of being cosy with Face Technologyand finding small excuses with the other companies to disqualify them.

“It (IEBC) appears to have adopted in the processing of this tender, a scheme of nit-picking, when it came to the tenders of the bidders it did not favour, and one of cosiness when it came with the successful bidder (Face Technologies),” a report, critical of the process, reads in part.

The revelations come at a time when it emerged the electronic voting and transmission system could have been attacked at least twice before it finally crashed at 8pm on Election Day.

South Africa: now making, assembling 50% of taxis


SouthAfrica.Info

19 March 2013

South Africa has made significant progress in localizing the manufacture and assembly of minibus taxis, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on the weekend.

“Some 12 months ago, none of the taxis on our roads were assembled in South Africa. Today about 50 percent of all taxis that are purchased are made or assembled here in South Africa, and we’re moving towards the target of localizing two-thirds of assembly in the taxi industry by 2015.”

The government is leading a campaign to promote the local procurement of supplies across all industries in order to boost the economy’s capacity to create jobs.

Patel said the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) had been mandated to develop a national localization strategy to guide all spheres of government.

He said the labour-absorbing capacity of local manufacturing industries had to be boosted to stimulate job creation and economic growth, adding that a strong local manufacturing sector would have a positive impact on South Africa’s balance of payments.

“We are working in partnership with a major manufacturer, Toyota, who has expanded the factory in eThekwini, as well as a partnership with the IDC and a Chinese manufacturer called the Beijing Automotive Works that has started a factory in Gauteng.

These companies had already employed 220 people to assemble taxis locally, with the number set to increase significantly by 2015, Patel said.

In October 2011, the government, business, labour and community-based organisations signed a Local Procurement Accord committing the parties to work together to increase local procurement as part of South Africa’s plans to create five- million jobs over the next decade.

And in December, the government put the buying power of the state firmly behind local manufacturers, with new amendments to the the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act allowing the government to name sectors and products that require a minimum level of local content to qualify for state procurement.

Bus manufacturing was among the first batch of sectors designated for local procurement under the amended law, resulting in the local sourcing of 80 percent of all inputs and supplies in the manufacturing of bus bodies for the rapid public transport systems in Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Other products designated in the first batch included power pylons, rolling stock, TV set-top boxes, clothing, canned vegetables, footwear and leather products.

In January, the Department of Trade and Industry announced a second batch of designated products, namely electrical valves, manual and pneumatic actuators, electrical and telecommunication cables, and components of solar water heaters.

Analysis: New law fails to ease oil concerns in Uganda


IRIN NEWS

KAMPALA/NAIROBI, 13 December 2012 (IRIN) – Uganda’s parliament recently passed a law to govern the exploration, development and production of the country’s estimated three billion barrels of oil, a resource whose extraction will directly affect the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

While the law streamlines the burgeoning industry, analysts have raised concerns over transparency and over who controls the sector.

“The new law helps set clear guidelines under which the oil sector is to be run and managed, and makes clear who is in charge of what roles,” said Tony Otoa, director of Great Lakes Public Affairs (GLPA), a Uganda-based think tank focusing on oil and governance. “However, there are some concerns about transparency and too much power within the oil industry in the hands of the president.”

The bill was passed on 7 December after weeks of wrangling over its controversial Clause 9, which gives the energy minister wide-ranging powers, including authority over the granting and revoking of oil licenses, negotiating and endorsing petroleum agreements, and promoting and sustaining transparency in the petroleum sector. Many members of parliament (MPs) felt these powers should be held by an independent national oil authority.

“Essentially, the standoff, which has ended, was about the withdrawal of trust from a government that is battered by corruption scandals. Also the way the cabinet operates is that, in the past, the feeling has been that some key ministries, like finance, are effectively run by the presidency after being stuffed by yes-men or -women. The pushback against Clause 9 also comes as the Central Bank opened its vaults to a large withdrawal in 2010 [US$740 million to buy six fighter jets] only for approvals to be sought retrospectively,” said Angelo Izama, a Ugandan journalist and oil sector analyst.

“Loss of trust”

“This loss of trust is behind the resistance to greater control by the executive,” he added. “The executive has not been a bad shepherd of the process so far. Uganda’s negotiating position has been tougher with the oil companies, ironically, without the oversight of parliament. However, public scandals elsewhere have negatively affected the ability of the president to convince lawmakers – especially of his party – that he means well.”

A number of donors – including the UK and Ireland – recently suspended aid to Uganda following allegations of deep-rooted corruption in the Office of the Prime Minister. The prime minister, the former energy minister and the foreign affairs minister were all accused of taking kick-backs from oil companies in 2011, charges that remain unproven but that nevertheless damage the reputation of the government.

“The country lacks trust in the state… Institutions and officials have lost legitimacy, and for such an important bill to vest too much power into a political appointee is a recipe for disaster,” said Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Uganda’s Makerere University Refugee Law Project.

“Granting and revoking licenses and negotiations are technical in nature. We need an independent commission or authority made up of people of good competence, technical ability and experience, and good morals to guard our oil,” said Frank Gashumba, a local businessman and social activist.

Proponents of Clause 9 say licensing powers are safer in the hands of the cabinet than under an oil authority. “The authority is open, easy to bribe and manipulate. Cabinet is bigger than the authority – members of the executive are answerable to Ugandans because they are elected leaders,” said Kenneth Omona, a ruling party MP.

Those opposed to it say they will challenge the law, which was passed with 149 votes in favour and 39 against; some 198 MPs did not turn up to vote.

“The fight is not complete; the passing of the bill is liable to be challenged in courts of law,” said Theodore Ssekikubo, ruling party MP and chair of the parliamentary forum on oil and gas. “If we fail to go to court, we shall subject the matter to a referendum for all Ugandans to pronounce themselves on this strategic resource. We want to ensure transparency and accountability in the oil sector.”

Transparency

There are also concerns about the law’s confidentiality clause, which limits the amount of information accessible by the public.

“The law is lacking transparency – it imposes confidentiality on officials working within the sector, even after they leave office, so there is no opportunity for whistle-blowing or for the public to have access to information on, say, production-sharing agreements,” GLPA’s Otoa said.

He noted that Uganda still hasn’t joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international scheme that attempts to set a global standard for transparency in oil, gas and mining, further compounding the sector’s lack of transparency. As a member of the EITI, Uganda and oil companies involved in the country would be required to publish all payments and revenues from the industry.

While Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), two of Uganda’s major oil partners, are listed on Wall Street and are therefore subject to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – which requires disclosure of payments relating to the acquisition of licenses for exploration and production of oil, gas and minerals – the Irish firm Tullow Oil, another of Uganda’s main oil partners, is not under any similar obligations.

“I am worried we [legislators] and the public can’t access and scrutinize these agreements. You can imagine the recently negotiated and signed oil agreements have not been accessed by the public, not even by members of parliament,” Beatrice Anywar, former shadow energy minister, told IRIN.

The impact of the oil sector has so far been most acutely felt by communities around Lake Albert, thousands of whom have had to move – some willingly and some forcefully – to make room for an oil refinery, which is expected to take up 29sqkm and displace some 8,000 people.

Land issues

“The government is prosecuting the refinery resettlement by the book. However, managing public expectations and the process of multiple decision makers in Uganda’s complex land legal system [Uganda has multiple land systems, including customary, leasehold and freehold] has contributed some volatility to the process… What is adequate compensation? And who determines that? Is it the market or should this be done by the government?” said journalist Izama.

“As a partner to the oil companies, it’s questionable too if the government can make the best decisions for the affected people as it would look to keep project costs fairly low,” he continued. “It is still a dilemma which is jurisprudential as well as political.”

He noted that much of the oil is in game reserves and a sensitive basin with lakes, rivers and a rare biodiversity, and borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, which could also pose challenges for peaceful production; there has already been some tension between the two countries over their boundaries within Lake Albert.

“The process of consensus-building is still weak, and regardless of how it’s arrived at, displacements will create uncomfortable realities, including land and job pressure.”

According to Otoa, Uganda’s lack of a comprehensive land policy makes compensation issues more complex. “We need clear land policies to ensure people are properly compensated – there is a Resettlement Action Plan in place, but it has not been implemented, and a draft land policy has not been actualized, leaving these communities vulnerable,” he said.

He noted that the lack of education among the local population, both in the oil-rich areas and the rest of the country, had contributed to the continued problems in the sector.

“We have focused too much on educating MPs on the implications and importance of good oil governance. We need to move to people-centred approaches and encourage dialogue in the public sphere, which will lead to people demanding accountability from their MPs and the government,” he added.

Ultimately, Izama said, responsible actions by the government will be the difference between Uganda’s oil making a significant impact on the country’s economy or causing conflict and greater poverty.

“Pressure on public institutions prior to commercial oil production is an effective way of counteracting the resource curse. If this public engagement falters, if the transition [from President Museveni to his successor] is volatile, some of the scenarios of the so-called oil curse are possible,” he said. “Overall the tensions are high, but responsible actions by public and political institutions like the past debate show progress is possible.”

Kentz Nabs $45m EPC Solar Power Project In South Africa


Ventures-Africa.com

November 12, 2012

VENTURES AFRICA – Global engineering solutions provider, Kentz Corporation Limited, has been awarded a $45 million Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the 75MWp Kalkbult Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project in the Northern Cape area of South Africa.

Scheduled to be completed by January 2014, the EPC project is a key component of Phase 1 of the South African Department of Energy’s 3,725MW Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Program.

“We continue to develop our EPC capabilities in the African region and this prestigious project for Scatec Solar demonstrates our ability to secure a wide range of EPC contracts,” Chief Executive of Kentz Group, Christian Brown said.

The award of such a key project for South African renewable energy will position us to contribute to the development of further renewable energy projects across the continent and beyond,” he added.

With over 14,000 employees in 29 countries  of some of the most remote locations on earth, Kentz serves a blue chip client base primarily in the oil, gas, petrochemical, and mining and metals sectors. The company generated revenues of $1.37 billion and profit before tax of $79.4 million in the year ending December 2011.

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