Former head of the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) Alex Mould, has raised alarm over the Akufo-Addo government’s alleged sneak of a sweetheart oil deal through Parliament.
According to the energy expert, the Government has virtually sold the Pecan oil field to Norwegian oil giant, Aker and subsidiary, AGM, for a song and that the government timed the transaction to happen on the eve of the Christmas holidays in December, unbeknownst to Ghanaians.
In a write-up, Mr. Alex Mould points out that the details of the sweetheart deal includes a condition which makes it the preserve of people in the ruling NPP party to pick and choose local partners for Aker/AGM contrary to the law.
And because they could not do this because of the existing petroleum law, the government pushed an amendment through Parliament on 23rd December 2019, a time that most people had gone on vacation to spend time with family and friends.
“Government knew we would all be distracted over the Christmas festivities in December; So, guess what our Govt did??? Late one evening, precisely on Dec 23rd, whilst some were spending family time together, some of us grieving, and our youth “Detty Raving”, “Blooming”, “Afro Chelling”, “Afro Nating” etc, our government led by President Nana Akuffo Addo, rushed amendments through Parliament, to approve significant changes to the upstream petroleum sector without following the due process!” Mr. Mould wrote.
Accordi8ng to him, the sneaky amendment in Parliament is contrary to denials that Energy Minister, John Peter Amewu had made ahead of the amendments when he ffirst confronted him about it in the UK.
“Let me refresh our memories a bit; you may all recall in October last year, I stood on a platform with the Minister of Energy, Hon Peter Amewu at an Oil and Gas Conference held at the University of East London in the United Kingdom. At this conference I raised the alarm about the entire integrated Plan of Development (PoD) resubmitted by Aker Energy in relation to the Pecan oil field which would rob the nation of billions of United State Dollars both immediately and over the next 30 years.
“I hinted that government was preparing to pass amendments to the existing regulations and laws governing the upstream petroleum sector provided Aker Energy agreed to the NPP Government’s demands. It is alleged that Government among other demands, asked Aker Energy to ensure the usage of only designated/chosen local partners (mainly controlled by people associated with the leadership of the NPP), even if these local partners are not qualified or even if these foreign oil services companies have already chosen their local partners.
“The Energy Minister assured Ghanaians at the conference that he would not approve the PoD if those were the conditions attached to it. He said and I quote “the PoD that you are talking about is lying on my table and I insist I am not going to give them that opportunity”.
However, he points out, the same thing the Energy Minister denied is what was done.
The amendment, he said had also ignored an earlier demand from Parliament that the agreement with the Norwegian company be modified so that rather than 3% participating interest for Ghana, the country would be allocated 10%.
Consequences from the new amendment, he said, would include the fact that Aker can pick and choose where to include in the area of exploration. The State will also bee seriously curtailed from having a say in the running of the upstream petroleum sector.
The agreement, he wrote will also “compel the Minister to accept the contractor’s delineation of the area to be included within a “Development and Production Area” in the Aker Block, allow Aker within a year of its Final Investment Decision to unilaterally vary the approved development plan without reference to the Minister contrary to Section 27(12) of Act 919.and give Contractors unfettered discretion over oilfield procurement without recourse to the petroleum commission or any other governmental authority – also weakening the role of GNPC in Joint Management Committees.”
He added that these amendments also provide sweeping tax exemption for Aker and AGM, its sub-contractors and sub sub-contractors. “No withholding taxes in the case of AGM itself, and a reduced withholding tax rate of 5% – instead of the 15% withholding tax – for any work or services or supply or use of goods, both to domestic and international transactions.
“It is reckless to exempt Withholding tax for international transactions; this is akin to surrendering taxing rights to a foreign state because the foreign state will apply tax on its worldwide income and will result in permanent revenue loss for Ghana. The non-resident companies having established a Permanent Establishment (PE) status for tax purposes would be liable for full corporate tax. Sadly, the amendments make it possible for non-residence Permanent Establishment (PE) to be exempted from the payment of tax at the domestic rate. This will cause a substantial tax loss as the tax exemption is for 7 years.