ACCESS TO INFORMATION RIGHT

Law compels the state to disclose Turkana oil deals

Section 2 of the Act lists the exploitation of natural resources as one of the areas of disclosure of information due to public interest.

In Summary

• The Ministry of Petroleum and Mining had stated that the government will not publish the terms of engagement with Tullow Oil and its joint venture partners in the project.

• The Constitution and the Access to Information Act, 2016 explicitly requires details of such projects to be disclosed. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta opens a valve while flagging off Kenya's first crude oil from the Turkana oil fields on Sunday, June 3, 2018. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta opens a valve while flagging off Kenya's first crude oil from the Turkana oil fields on Sunday, June 3, 2018. /PSCU

One of the most important recent events in Kenya was the flagging off of the country’s maiden crude oil export to Malaysia on August 26 2019 at Sh1.2 billion.

The ceremony that was presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta was a culmination of a year’s accumulation of crude oil at the Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited in Mombasa.

The President had earlier announced that Kenya had struck a deal with an oil exporter with Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau, revealing that a Chinese state-owned petroleum multinational ChemChina (UK) Ltd had won the bid to lift the Turkana oil. Tullow Oil, the mining company in charge of the Turkana Project, estimates that Kenya’s fields hold up to 560 million barrels of oil and expects to produce up to 100,000 barrels per day from 2022. 

 

Whereas it is still too early for any meaningful celebration, the exportation of Turkana oil is a significant milestone with the potential of transforming the socioeconomic status of the country. Stakeholders are fighting for their share.

However, one of the most contentious issues concerning oil exploration and exportation has been the disclosure of information. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mining had stated that the government will not publish the terms of engagement with Tullow Oil and its joint venture partners in the project.

The position of the government on this issue is untenable. The Constitution and the Access to Information Act, 2016 explicitly requires details of such projects to be disclosed. Indeed, Section 2 of the Act lists the exploitation of natural resources as one of the areas of disclosure of information due to public interest.

In light of the above, these contracts should not be concealed or crafted with confidentiality clauses.

Development Comms specialist