Transparency body Global Witness while lauding the first licensing round as an step forward for transparency in the country has cautioned on four shortlisted companies which it says have a questionable environmental and social track record.
The four namely Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum, Russian Africa Global Resources consortium where it questions two companies Telconet Capital Partnership Ltd and RT Global Resources as well as US based Glint Energy.
Global Witness says the need to scrutinize the companies’ shortlisted stems from the fact that the six new oil blocks up for auction are in protected areas, including the Ngaji block on Lake Edward which borders Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Given that all the blocks overlap with environmentally protected areas the Government must at a minimum publish information on the criteria for selecting companies – including what their environmental and social track record looks like. It should also publish the true owners of these companies and the contracts they sign so that the public can see what kind of deals the Government has negotiated and who will benefit from them,” says George Boden, campaigner at Global Witness.
The body questions the corrupt past of Oranto Petroleum in Liberia while in American Glint Energy the body questions whether the company has any expertise to explore oil due as it has no known active oil licences and was only reinstated on the 16th of July 2015 after it was forfeited for failure to file a tax return and/or pay state franchise tax in May 2011.
Global Witness is also against the awarding of Telconet Capital Partnership Ltd as the owners of the company registered in the Cayman Islands are unknown.
According to a share offering document from November 2012 Telconet is 50% owned by Sergei Adionev who was in 1998 convicted of fraud in the US, ordered to pay restitution of four million dollars to the Government of Kazakhstan, and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
“As the ownership of Telconet is currently unclear Global Witness calls on the Government of Uganda to release details of the final beneficial owners of all companies involved in the bidding process,” Global Witness further says.
The company has also questioned the increasing participation of RT Global Resources a wholly owned subsidiary of giant state owned Russian arms and industrial company Rostec which has in the recent past been selected as the preferred bidder for the refinery deal and whose mother company has sold jets and tanks to the East African country in the past five years.
“The Ugandan Government should clarify whether there is any relationship between the refinery deal, the upstream bidding round or arms deals,” Global Witness concludes.