“This is because people who came here today comprised the best representation of the wider majority of Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad in formulating this policy”, she said, adding that they as civil society wanted transparency agenda to continue even where governments come and go.
The campaigner said the draft policy was a government document that came out of a government led process and they therefore wanted to make sure that the policy document turned into the legal document that they all wanted.
The EITI is an independent, internationally agreed upon, voluntary standard for creating transparency in the extractive industries.
Aminata Kamara, human resource director at Sierra Rutile, said they were happy to discuss the document as a show of support to the process but also to express their readiness to work with SLEITI.
Deputy anti-corruption commission, Shollay Davies, said the country was at a stage where institutions must be built and respected.
“Mind you we started off without a structure. Therefore, today is a landmark day because we are starting the process of how proceeds of our natural resources should be distributed fairly”, he said, adding that the ACC was a part of the whole process of transparency in the extractive sector.
“We did an opinion on the first SLETI report because we take interest in these kinds of issues and in some cases they help us investigate and retrieve stolen wealth, money that communities are deprived of”.
The anti-graft tsar said the policy should be able to give the country a direction on accountability in the extractives sector and natural resource use generally, noting that even the reconciler should take responsibility for the recording of every day issues for purposes of reporting.
Chairman of Network Movement for Justice and Development, Abu Brima, talked on beneficial ownership and reminded the gathering that the SLEITI policy was supposed to have been informed by the minerals policy, which was still being developed.
“This is why we should be mindful of the relationship between the two insofar as international obligations are concerned”, he said, adding that there was a model leasing framework that was being looked into to address issues of transparency gaps in mining contracts and licensing.
Mr Brima also stated that the policy needed to recognise all corporate and governance accountability issues and identify and make conscious efforts to create an open society by bringing on board the ACC and other accountability enforcement mechanisms.
He lauded the work of the Multi Stakeholder Group, MSG, but noted that their seeming lack of presence at local levels, especially in communities with people who are directly affected by marginalisation and conflict in mining areas, was a legitimate concern.
He said frameworks like the free prior consent, which ensured that people were involved at the local levels, should be considered because they were usually backed by international standards and other human rights instruments that back the freedom of information and recognise the input of local people.
A report on findings on issues to be considered in the formulation of a national policy for EITI indicated that a considerable amount of work needed to precede the formulation of this policy.
“This includes a situational analysis of the EITI implementation in Sierra Leone and the analysis of key issues in the sector and charting strategic directions for the sector’s management”, it said, noting that there had been extensive consultation on many key issues in various fora all relating to the management of extractives in the country whose results could be considered in the policy document.
Meanwhile, a consultant engineer from CEMAT who took participants through the document, Andrew Keili, highlighted some of the challenges of implementing the EITI in the country’s extractive sector.
“Tax levels not in line with international best practices for the extractive sector. Problems with international financial disclosure requirements for small scale mining companies and poor representation of women in decision making”, he said.
He added that other challenges included: “Ineffective communication channels between the State, mining companies and host communities; complex revenue collection mechanisms and wide discretion and inconsistencies in processes for granting licenses; failure to disclose details of negotiations and licenses for public scrutiny for some operations.
“Difficulties faced in disclosing company information; difficulties in establishing Auditing Standards based on international best practices; difficulties faced in releasing details of government revenues; information on contracts and revenues generated from companies not easily accessible to citizens”.