August 22, 2014 by Melissa Lawson
Advocacy work is certainly a long-haul game – and Tearfund’s work through our Unearth the Truth and Secret’s Out campaign, calling for extractive transparency, is certainly no different! The EU Accounting and Transparency Directives were passed last year, requiring extractive companies; like oil, gas and mining, to publish what they pay to foreign governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. EU countries now have two years to implement these into domestic law.
At the Open Government Partnership Conference last year, the UK committed to implement the Directives ‘fast’ (to mine and many others relief!). After years of campaigning on an issue, the finishing line was in view – with just a few hurdles left.
Yesterday the UK Government published the draft extractive transparency regulations which will be put before Parliament.
At Tearfund, we have been involved in the consultation process. We have worked with our Publish What You Pay counterparts, made submissions to the department for Business Innovation and Skills, and our campaigners have been meeting with their MPs to call for quick and strong implementation of the EU Directives. We are now beginning to see the results.
The publication is welcome. The draft regulations make sure there is project level reporting, without any exemptions – which is required under the EU Accounting Directive. Under the draft legislation, UK companies will need to publish this information for financial years starting this coming January (2015) and those that fail to report fully, truthfully and accurately will face criminal penalties. This is a great step forward and a clear demonstration that the UK is living up to its Open Government Partnership commitment.
It is disappointing that the draft regulations include a condition that prosecutions against companies for failure to fully report payments will require the consent of the Secretary of State. This has been a recent addition to the regulations, and needlessly politicises the anti-corruption fight. We are therefore calling for this clause to be dropped from the regulations as they go through parliament.
So the next steps are to ensure these regulations, and equivalent ones for the EU Transparency Directive (covering companies listed on the stock exchange), pass through Parliament and that the final laws are strong.
We must continue to advocate for other countries (particularly G20 members) to adopt similar legislation – so that extractive companies, no matter where they are listed or operate, are required to publish their payments. And we need to support churches and communities in resource-rich countries to use this information to hold their leaders to account and benefit from the wealth beneath their feet.
We still have a way to go, but it’s an exciting journey.