Local leaders are demanding the central government to be as transparent as possible on the question of oil revenue sharing if they are to meaningfully benefit from the industry.
Some fear that with evident tactical withdraw of powers initially exercised by local governments, they might be cheated yet they inescapably face the spill-over effects that stretch beyond oil production in the country.
They leaders also demand a focal person for petroleum in their local government set up instead of letting the industry controlled from the centre.
The above are some of the reservations made during an engagement with local government leaders organised by Buliisa Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO) in partnership with ACODE and Natural Resources Governance Institute in Hoima city.
While sharing his experience on extractives, the Kasese District Revenue Officer, Mr Alfred Irenge, revealed that he has had trouble questioning the breakdown of royalties from the minerals including cobalt and lime and tourism.
He fears that the same might happen in the oil industry in which they have high hopes.
Mr Irenge, however, appreciated that the little they get as percentage of the amount they do not understandhas helped them to improve services in the district.
Also on the panel of sharing experience with local leaders mainly from the Albertine region was Ms Maria Ndagire, the Mubende District Community Development Officer (DCDO).
She revealed that as a district local government, they have not received any royalties from gold mining as expected.
According to her, the licenced mining contractor is only loyal to the central government and he unfortunately shelters the sub-contractors who could easily build on a local tax base.
Ms Ndagire added that the procedure of accessing the gold mines to explore avenues of generating revenue is too complex and demoralising to the local leaders since the area is heavily guarded by the military.
She also claimed that to make matters worse, even casual labourers are imported from as far as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Meanwhile, Mr Fred Lukumu, the Buliisa District Chairman, said the sure way to win confidence of the local government leaders regarding oil industry, decentralisaiton must be fully practised and have the oil element integrated.
“We have to be involved in monitoring and evaluation of the oil industry so that we shall have no questions at the end of the day,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Chairperson for the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CISCO), Dr Paul Bagabo expressed the need for government to clarify on the number of districts to benefit from the oil royalties after dropping the earlier known list of 25.
According to him, keeping it unclear frustrates efforts for the respective districts to plan for the revenue.
Dr Bagabo said despite fears of accountability, the royalties will flow to the respective districts and absolutely make a big financial change.
He also challenged local governments to see beyond royalties because there is much to achieve in the subsequent four years ahead of oil production than in the 30 years of production.
Speaking on behalf of the Secretary for the Local Government Financial Commission (LGFC), Mr Robert Roy Apegu, the commissions’ Senior Financial Analyst challenged the local government leaders digitalise their revenue collections and always express their reservations at all relevant platforms to iron out issues that negatively affect their performance.
On his side, the Hoima Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Emmy Kateera Turyabagyenyi, said it is too early to discuss royalties until oil production starts.
However, Mr Dickens Amanya, the Coordinator for the Bunyoro Albertine Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO), disagrees with the RDC arguing that the discussion could have been hotter yesterday.
“I think even our leaders have let us down. It is among the issues that could be even resurfacing on the floor of parliament. There must be clear positions on such issues,” he argued.
Mr Aggrey Mugume, the National Content Officer at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), urged local government leaders to always be armed with statistics on activities in their respective regions before inviting PAU to question companies on their response to local service taxes and awarding business opportunities in respect to local content.
Mr Robert Byaruhanga, the Revenue Mobilisation Officer at the Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA), challenged local leaders to continue pushing for their rights stipulated in the Local Government Act and hold the centre accountable and be able to let them exercise their mandate.