The government is set to begin the controversial trucking of crude oil from Turkana to Mombasa, a distance of 1,089 kilometres, in an initiative it says is designed to test what the market reception to Kenyan crude will be.
However, civil society organisations have already raised legitimate questions about the secrecy in which the whole process is shrouded.
A production agreement signed between Tullow Oil and the Kenyan government has been kept under lock and key and no details on the arrangement have been disclosed.
As we report elsewhere in this edition, Tullow Oil does not appear to object to disclosure of the agreement, as similar contracts were made public in Ghana where the company also operates, but it is the government that has to take the lead on such a decision.
The Energy ministry’s stance on this matter is both ill-informed and a worrying sign of the attitude of the national government in its plans for managing the country’s newfound oil resource.
It is well established practice among enlightened policy makers dealing with the oil industry around the world that transparency in managing natural resources boosts public trust in the process.
According to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global standard that promotes accountable management of such resources, governance issues are best addressed in this field by ensuring that the public has all the information it needs to make its judgment on the process.
The initiative encourages publication of data and information on contracts and licenses, production, revenue collection and allocation, and social and economic spending.
Rumours have already been circulating that well-connected elites have positioned themselves to benefit financially from the early oil transportation and exportation scheme.
If Kenya is to avoid the pitfalls of graft and mismanagement that countries with oil and gas resources across Africa have suffered, it is essential that it adopts a stance of greater transparency at every stage of the oil exploration and exportation chain.
The Energy ministry has not got off to a good start in allowing the public access to information on the management of the nation’s newfound resource.
If this attitude persists, civil society organisations and concerned citizens will be right to seek appropriate relief from the courts.