News | October 23, 2017

The Oil Journey project effectively communicated with 321,000 people in the greater Accra region to make them aware of local development projects funded by government oil revenue. They also provided the means and motivation for over 20,000 citizens to monitor and discuss these projects and push for greater government transparency and engagement.

In 2007, oil in commercial quantities was discovered off Ghana's southern coast, providing Ghana the opportunity to develop economically and socially. To avoid the pitfalls of other petrol-rich countries, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act was implemented.  This required the publication of oil revenues gained and payments made by the relevant ministries. Oil and gas revenues have funded a number of local community development projects across the country, but despite the existence of the act, there has been a lack of transparency and little engagement with citizens in exactly how this money is spent. The information is scattered across ministries and agencies and an ineffective Freedom of Information Bill makes it near impossible to obtain accurate government information. Citizens are unable to monitor the establishment and implementation of projects or hold the government and their contractors to account when the projects are abandoned or fall short.

Citizens in Ghana are unaware of how oil revenues are spent in their communities leading to most of the projects being abandoned or funds misallocated. - Infosol

Developing Oil Journey

In 2016, through MAVC funding, Infosol Technologies Limited partnered with the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) to set up the Oil Journey project. The project aimed to address this lack of transparency by revealing to Ghanaians how much money the government makes from the oil industry and how it is spent.  It also aimed to give citizens the means to oversee and report on the progress of the projects by setting up a variety of communication and information sharing platforms: SMS, voice messenger, WhatsApp, a mobile application, Facebook, Youtube, the Oil Journey Website and face-to-face community engagement. The Oil Journey team then verified and synthesised citizens’ comments – putting them together in a report with specific recommendations to government and government ministries on how best to ensure that the projects are properly implemented. Through the project citizens were better able to share vital evidence to government agencies on quality of contractors work (influencing whether they got more work) and to negotiate with the government on how oil revenue is allocated in future.

 We are pursuing accountability, transparency and probity of the allocation and utilisation of oil and gas revenue in our country by bridging the communication gap and closing the feedback loop. Our task is to simply raise citizens’ voices and empower them to hold accountable, the government and stakeholders, as well as track acclaimed projects in their various communities that has funding from the oil revenue. -David Alhassan Mumuni, Project Manager Oil Journey

What change happened as a result?

Community engagement and momentum

The project reached over 321,000 people in the greater Accra region. A big focus on low-tech platforms such as voice-messenger and SMS made it possible to connect with such a high number of people. Among this group, 407 people sent questions, comments and suggestions back via SMS and voice-message to be passed on to the government. Over 20,000 people used social media channels, with some of the conversations on revenue reaching over 61,000 people.

Key to the success of the uptake of technical platforms were the face-to-face engagement meetings the team set up with local communities. These five meetings provided the opportunity for the team to build relationships with the community members – creating trust and enthusiasm for the Oil Journey project. The meetings were used to share information on local oil funded projects and to train people in using the various communication platforms.

Oil Journey opened our eyes as members of the assembly, we never knew how and what oil money does. We were introduced to the platform which provide breakdown of what oil money does. Now we understand why we should influence allocation of resources and monitor the implementation. We can text, call and access the website and ask right questions to the duty bearers. We are so happy! - Hon. Emmanuel YeduSackey, assembly member for Adenta Municipality

Enforcing a strict timeframe on to contractors to implement a project and undertaking a re-inspection about 6-12 months after completion of the project to ensure the work has been done to a high enough standard were just two of the practical recommendations that citizens collectively made to the government.

The Oil Journey team produced the which features citizen’s feedback and photos alongside all projects funded by Oil revenue in 2014 in the Greater Accra Region.

Great government transparency and engagement

One of the most critical relationships to the success of the initiative was that built with the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC).  The relationship was vital to accessing information and engaging with the government, including access to comprehensive data on 14 projects financed from oil revenues in the Greater Accra region in 2014 – information that had previously been inaccessible. Oil Journey also found it much more effective to voice their recommendations through the PIAC instead of talking with government directly because PIAC is more influential and is composed of members that include civil society and eminent persons that are directly connected to ordinary citizens. As a result, Oil Journey recommendations were included in the PIAC’s bi-annual report to central government and government ministries, who are mandated to respond to PIAC’s recommendations, and consequently they managed to influence priorities for spending oil money towards sectors that citizens put as their top needs, for example, health. The influence of PIAC also comes from the fact that the committee was set up by parliament, they also use their recommendations and have some sway over how oil revenue is spent in Ghana.

‘Oil Journey introduced a unique platform for promoting transparency and accountability in oil revenue utilisation. On the click of a button we can access issues raised by citizens which we collate and feed into our reports that we present at the parliamentary public accounts committee. This has influenced allocation of oil revenue in priority issues that are in line with the needs of the citizens. Our work in tracking oil revenue projects and putting pressure on duty-bearers to act has been made easier. Use of ICT based technology, has enabled people – including those who are poor and marginalised – to demand transparency and accountability on oil projects. -Mark Agyemans, Technical Manager, Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC)

Future action

Oil Journey has linked its platform to the PIAC website so that communities can continue engaging and send feedback on oil revenue projects. They have also partnered with another MAVC grantee, Action Voices in Ghana, who will support them with video documentation - interviewing citizens on their perceptions of oil revenue projects. This will used for continued awareness raising, evidence building and knowledge sharing.

Oil Journey is currently building partnerships with GIZ and oil companies in order to access funding for scaling up to other regions. They are also in consultation another MAVC grantee, University of Ghana, to conduct further research on oil revenue to strengthen the interventions.

The project has potential to learn and strengthen partnership with other MAVC grantees, like the TIMBY project in Liberia and the Open Oil project in Tanzania, thereby contributing to building a regional comparative analysis of transparency and accountability issues on the extractive sector in Africa.

The Oil Journey project received the support of  £37,560 and was implemented from November 2015 to February 2017.