There is need for civil society engagement to implement SLEITI in SL – Minister of State

Chairperson of Sierra Leone Extractive Industries Initiative who doubles as Minister of State in the VP’s office, Frances Piagie Alghali said implementing the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Sierra Leone requires strengthening civil society engagements beyond the Multi-stakeholder Group (MSG) platform. “Not everybody will be on the MSG, but the role of those CSOs on the MSG as well as other members of the MSG to enable CSOs participation in the EITI through engagements, dissemination of information to the broader civil society on the EITI,” she said.

She made this statement at a one day workshop organized by Sierra Leone Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (SLEITI) at the Buxton Compound Hall on Charles Street in Freetown, on Thursday 9th July 2020. She said the EITI standards continue to evolve, adding the 2019 standards contain new requirements, chief among them: disclosure of mining, oil and gas contracts signed after 2021, strengthening the disclosure requirements regarding state participation and transaction in relation to state owned enterprises, the disclosure of environmental payment and contextual information related to environmental monitoring, gender balance in EITI implementation and mainstreaming transparency with focus on systematic disclosure.

Minister Alghali said government is committed to using the EITI for the following reasons: to promote accountability and greater economic and political stability, to strengthen licenses, tax collection system and legal and fiscal framework, as well as improving the investment climate by providing a clear signal to investors and international financial institution that the government is committed to greater transparency.

She called on civil society organisations to closely collaborate with SLEITI so EITI standards could be achieved, adding “If we do not achieve these standards, it is the civil society that will raise alarm about it.” She noted that Sierra Leone had complied with most EITI requirements, including the international benchmarks, as she has made great efforts at improving governance in various sectors.

Annie Lansana of Sierra Leone Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (SLEITI) said during the 43rd meeting in Paris, it was agreed that Sierra Leone made progress in most of the EITI standards, stating there is room for improvement in some other areas. She said the country made progress in government participation in the EITI process, the legal framework, contract disclosure, MSG oversight, among others.

“One of the areas we as a country did not make progress is the civil society engagement. The engagement of civil societies remains very crucial to achieving the EITI standards.” Another area needing attention is the Memorandum of Understanding with the MSG, which she said has been reviewed with the MSG currently working on the internal rules. “If we do not address all these issues when we will be assessed in December, Sierra Leone will be suspended,” she added.

Executive Secretary, Human Right Defenders Network, Alphonso Gbanie noted that although civil society had not been fully engaged in the EITI process, they are now happy for getting involved in the process to implement the recommendations from the secretariat to improve inclusiveness. He further revealed that his CSO will focus on environmental and land right justice for incoming mining companies so that their activities would have a human right based approach. “CSOs should institutionalise its EITI process in all their programs.”

Meanwhile, some civil societies complained of limited resources to coordinate with other civil society groups, but were assured by the Minister of State that they are open to proposals which they will forward to their donors for financial support.

By Sulaiman Karim Sesay