Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New database launched for openness in gas, oil sector

Participants follow proceedings during the

Participants follow proceedings during the launch of Tanzania Oil and Gas Almanac in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | EMMANUEL HERMAN 

By Veneranda Sumila, The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Tanzanians can now access information related to oil and gas sector, thanks to a transparency tool launched yesterday in efforts to improve the sector’s governance.

The Tanzania Oil and Gas Almanac, a database prepared by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Tanzania, will act as a single gateway for oil and gas information and data. The chief editor of the almanac, Mr Abdallah Katunzi, said having the database is crucial for policymakers, researchers, media and the public to obtain data on the extractive industry.

The almanac is also accessible online in both English and Kiswahili.

“Tanzania like many other countries has been finding it hard to get data on extractive industries. With the almanac, people can easily obtain information about the sector,” said Mr Katunzi. A research by Twaweza indicates that 77 per cent of Tanzanians are lacking information on the recent gas discovered in the country, something which rises alarm for more measures to inform the public.

“It was also found that three out of four Tanzanians are not aware of new gas policies but now these policies are available in the almanac,” said Mr Katunzi.

Tanzania has so far discovered natural gas resource amounting to 55.08 trillion cubic feet from both onshore and offshore.

Former Controller and Auditor General Ludovick Utouh commended the portal launch,  saying it will make people up to date on oil and gas issues something which will eliminate the notion that the sector is monopolised by a few individuals.

However, Mr Utouh said the challenge remains how people on the grassroots can access the almanac given the fact that the majority of them are not connected to the internet. “It should be understood that the almanac itself cannot reach everybody but there is a need for collaboration between stakeholders including NGOs, CSOs and the media.

“By doing so the impact of the data revealed in the almanac can be attained,” Mr Utouh told The Citizen.

According to Mr Katunzi, the biggest challenge that makes it difficult to update the almanac is failure by government bodies and agencies to reveal information timely. “It is very difficult to get up to date information from ministry websites and from other government departments,” he said. Twaweza executive director Aidan Eyakuze said the almanac will act as the biggest tool for people to obtain information. “The almanac and other tools are fantastic but I urge you to ensure that you provide easy to interpret information that are of high quality and informative for every consumer to understand,” said Mr Eyakuze.

Mr Utouh urged the almanac chief editor not to depend on government for up to date information.

“I urge you look for other means including conducting research yourselves, otherwise you can’t depend on government to get information,” said Mr Uttoh.

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