Bridging the Ownership Gap

How to make sure that the EITI serves your country’s interests.

In the EITI Standard foreword, EITI Chair Clare Short describes “the need for the EITI to encourage national ownership of reform efforts in order to better serve the interests of the citizens of member countries has been an important principle.”

The set-up of the EITI in countries follows this principle. The team leading the national EITI is the multi-stakeholder group (MSG), which is made up of local stakeholders from government, civil society and the private sector. They lead implementation by developing and approving the workplan, by defining what the EITI report will cover (scope), and by encouraging and contributing to the public debate of topical issues in the extractive sector. Countries are encouraged to take the EITI Standard as the basis to improve governance and strengthen the sector’s economic contribution.

Some think that external funding drives implementation

In Sub-Saharan Africa, many countries depend on development partners to close national budget gaps. In addition, these countries often rely on external financing to fully implement EITI. The costs associated with implementing the EITI and hiring experts to carry out scoping studies, gathering and verifying the data for the EITI Report, the writing of it and ofcourse the activities to make the results known.

In the fiscal year 2014-15 roughly 72% of the direct implementation costs (excluding salaries and other operational costs) in Liberia were paid by development partners. The picture is the same in Sierra Leone (30%) and Tanzania (62%).

Development partners – willing to support implementation – have fixed resources and priority spending areas that may not be in sync with those of the MSG. Others have argued that full country ownership of EITI happens when national governments can fully fund implementation.

I differ, somewhat.

It’s not all about funding

While funding may pose challenges to country ownership, the biggest obstacle may be the lack of full expertise and of active engagement by stakeholders to ensure the EITI is linked to the national development priorities. In turn, good indicators of country ownership are debates fueled and sharpened by information from EITI reporting. The extent to which civil society and others demand for and use data to seek accountability is another strong indicator of country ownership. Liberia’s investigation into how mineral rights were awarded or how Nigeria recovered US$ 2.4 billion of unpaid taxes and royalties are good examples.

When a country decides to cover agriculture, forestry or fisheries in its EITI scope – thus more than the extractives – that’s ownership.

In his blog improving the impact of mining royalties at the local level in Ghana, the National Coordinator explained why information on royalty payments are important to local communities. He describes how regional governments, using recommendations from the EITI process, have taken specific actions to improve on the management of royalty payments. Ownership is exemplary when actions are taken by stakeholders to strengthen management of the sector.

Owning the EITI through capacity

As a former national coordinator, I have seen how EITI national ownership could be weakened or strengthened. MSG representatives must have the expertise to discuss and contribute to policy issues. They must participate in regular meetings. Where stakeholders’ engagement is weak, ownership outcomes are small. Capacity building should not only identify weakness in the government reporting processes, but also propose solutions and follow-up on their execution. Support should further target strengthening the link(s) between MSG representatives and the people they represent.

Owning the EITI through engagement

Decisions from stakeholder meetings must feed into government policy rooms and back. To this end, officials representing government on the MSG must lead in connecting the EITI to the national development agenda and ensure that the government’s vision for the EITI reverberates across government.

The set up of the EITI provides the space for countries to own the process and contribute to the change they want to see. But real ownership happens once they have the technical understanding, once they engage with their stakeholders and link up EITI data and recommendations with reforms in the extractive sector.

 

Sam is Regional Director for West and East Africa at the International Secretariat of the EITI. Find out more about him here.