By Hassan G. Koroma from Kambia
In order to promote transparency and accountability in the use of the country’s natural mineral resources, a multi-stakeholders group of the Sierra Leone Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (SLEITI), in collaboration with the National Advocacy Coalition on the Extractives, and representatives from German International Cooperation (GIZ) on Monday (24 March) commenced a nationwide sensitization on the third EITI Reconciliation Report as the Kambia District Council Hall, northern Sierra Leone.
Making a statement at the commencement ceremony, acting National Coordinator of SLEITI, Miner Horis, said the EITI was adopted in Sierra Leone to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of the country’s natural resources, in a bid to inform the public about monies government receive from the mining companies operating in the country.
She said the initiative was first announced at the World Submit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002, after a recommendation by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair that some mineral rich African countries should endeavour to ensure their citizens benefit from proceeds from their mineral wealth.
Madam Horis said the initiative was officially launched in London in 2003, on the conviction that oil, gas and minerals can help raise the standard of life across the world if properly managed.
“The main purpose of the EITI is to ensure that the government accounts to the citizens what they received from those mining companies and make sure everybody benefits from it,” she said, adding that SLEITI is working hand in glove with civil society organizations to ensure that government achieve that goal.
She admonished implored participants to help disseminate messages about SLEITI in their communities, noting that mineral resources are an engine of economic growth in the country.
Highlighting the aims and objectives of the initiative, Communications Officer of SLEITI, Josephine Saidu, said the initiative is aimed at developing a framework for transparency and accountability in reporting and disclosure by all extractive industries, revenues due to or paid to government.
She said SLEITI seeks to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the management of government investments in all extractives industries.
Mines Monitoring Officer in Kambia District, Joseph S. Kabbia, said the initiative is a laudable one because it helps to strengthen transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, as lack of transparency in the use of the country’s natural resources, mismanagement and selfishness were some of the root causes of the 11 years civil.
He appealed to citizens to put selfishness aside and embrace one another in a bid to push the country’s development forward, while he encouraged all mining companies to pay their taxes and obtain license, to contribute to nation building.
In his presentation, Chairman, National Advocacy Coalition on the Extractives (NACE), Dr. Mustapha Saidu Thomas, who is also a lecturer at the Department of Geology, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, expatiated on the third Reconciliation Report of SLEITI.
If not properly managed, he said, minerals would someday disappear without any significant benefit to the country as the masses would still be poor.
He said the 2011 report contains oil and gas payment in the sum of $5 million, as well as another $1 million that was paid to the Bank of Sierra Leone instead of the Petroleum Directorate, which has sole authority to receive such payments, the reason Sierra Leone was suspended from the EITI.
He said that Sierra Leone endorsed the EITI in 2006 and two years later, it became a candidate country and published its first EITI report in 2006/07 followed by a 2010 report on minerals only.
He disclosed that in 2010, 9 mining companies paid the sum of $7.2 million, while the sum of $10.2 million was paid in the year 2007 by the same number of companies.
In 2008, 19 companies paid a total sum $5, 027,565, while in 2009 the sum of $5,875,779 was paid by those same companies.
The published validation report on the assessment of the EITI rated Sierra Leone for making meaningful progress, although the country failed to achieve compliance, he said.
In 2012, he said, another validation report was published, but requirement level 11,13, 14,and 15 were not considered by EITI and as a result, Sierra Leone was suspended from the group on 26 February, 2013