May 8, 2017
Increasing global demand is driving new oil and gas discoveries. Over the next 20 years, it is expected that 90 per cent of production will come from developing countries. Yet many countries rich in oil and gas are home to some of the world’s poorest people. How can this happen? Too often, wealth stays in the hands of politicians and industry insiders. Revenues don’t get published. Payments made to governments to exploit resources remain secret. Bribery and embezzlement go unchecked.
Many oil and gas companies protect the identities of their equity holders and subsidiaries. This allows corrupt leaders to hide stolen funds unnoticed. Inadequate financial statements make it easy to disguise corrupt deals, and impossible for any of us to monitor them. Many oil and gas companies don’t publish information country by country. This allows them to hide the royalties, taxes and fees they pay. But without this information, we can’t hold governments to account for the money they receive.
At the Anti-Corruption Summit the UK pledged to “work with others to enhance company disclosure regarding payments to government for the sale of oil, gas and minerals, complementing our commitment to the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative”. This commitment is clarified in the UK’s Open Government Partnership 2016-2018 National Action Plan, which states the UK’s ambition “[t]o enhance company disclosure regarding payments to government for the sale of oil, gas and minerals”.
The 2016-2018 National Action plan also explains:
“Over the last decade, the UK has led the way in encouraging the extractive sector to be more transparent, notably through a combination of voluntary reporting under the EITI and mandatory disclosure rules now present in the EU, Canada, the US and other countries. But despite this progress, a significant gap still exists. Payments from physical commodity trading companies to governments and state-owned enterprises for the sale of oil, gas and minerals – which account for the majority of total government revenues in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Angola and Nigeria – remain largely opaque. Whereas taxes, royalties and other payments are included within existing disclosure rules, payments from oil traders to governments (often $US billions/year) are not.”
At the Eighth Plenary Meeting of the OECD Policy Dialogue on Natural Resource-based Development, a new international dialogue was introduced to facilitate conversation between the 12 countries that committed to work together to enhance transparency in commodity trading at the Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016.
In January and February 2018 the UK co-chaired the Ninth Meeting of the Policy Dialogue on Natural Resource Development, in which participants “agreed on a roadmap to develop a global reporting template for payment disclosure by companies involved in commodity trading; to operationalise due diligence guidance to tackle specific risks of rent diversion and corruption; and to develop a template to support SOEs in selecting buyers, linking up different strands of work across the OECD and coordinating with other international organisations, including international financial institutions”.
In June 2018 the UK co-chaired the Tenth Meeting of the Policy Dialogue on Natural Resource Development. Key outcomes included recognition by companies of the importance of trade-related payments transparency. At the Eleventh Plenary Meeting in December 2018, participants “reached common ground” on the types of information that should be included in a global reporting template for commodity trading payments.
An update on the UK’s work in this area is included in the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy: Year 1 Update, which includes steps that have been collectively identified which would help to address “existing transparency and accountability gaps”: “These steps include developing a global reporting template for payment disclosure by companies involved in commodity trading and a template to support state-owned enterprises in selecting buyers with the aim of strengthening transparency over the coming years.”
The UK has reiterated its commitment to work with others to enhance disclosure of commodity trading payments in the UK’s 4th Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. The Government’s plans to enhance company disclosure regarding payments to governments for the sale of natural resources is also reiterated in the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy Year 2 Update.