A one-day stakeholders meeting intended to discuss ways of supporting efforts to improve transparency in the natural resource and extractive sectors, will begin today, Wednesday, October 24, in Monrovia.
The meeting, which is being organized by the World Bank Group, will include dissemination of a recently released World Bank publication entitled, “License to Drill: A Manual on Integrity Due Diligence in Extractive Sector Licensing.”
According to a preliminary statement from the World Bank Liberia office, the meeting will bring together government officials and civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly those from the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, the Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the Liberia Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (LEITI).
Others include the Center for Transparency and Accountability International (CENTAL), GIZ and some senior officials from the World Bank Group.
According to World Bank Liberia’s Country Manager Madam Larisa Leshchenko, the new World Bank publication, License to Drill, is a “how to” manual aimed at helping countries improve the background checks on applicants for license and concessions in natural resource and extractive sectors.
According to the Bank, improving these regulatory steps has become a high global development priority due to the extent to which corruption in these sectors impedes economic development, contributes to illicit financial flows (IFFS), and exacerbates poverty.
Mitigating corruption risks in these sectors can be complicated as effectiveness depends largely on quality and effectiveness of transparency in the regulatory licensing process, World Bank Liberia statement said.
Also, for countries like Liberia that have committed to comply with requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), this publication may be particularly useful to meet those obligations. “We hope the publication can be useful to officials and experts, supporting them in efforts to reduce corruption risks in the natural resource and extractive sectors,” the Bank added.
The World Bank also said the publication focuses on good practice options to conduct integrity checks on applicants for licenses. These consist of beneficial ownership, criminal background, and conflict of interest checks, to ensure licenses are granted only to those likely to meet high integrity standards in developing a country’s valuable assets.
The statement said that compliance with EITI Beneficial Ownership Disclosure Requirement (BODR) requires first identifying beneficial owners and politically exposed persons (PEPs), which is best done before licenses are granted.
The World Bank publication said effective assessment of the fitness and propriety of license applicants and technical compliance with the EITI requirements will not eliminate extractive sector corruption if other important safeguard to ensure integrity, accountability and transparency are effective.
“When officials cannot be held effectively accountable for licensing decisions, corruption is likely. Therefore, the application also provides guidance to remove loopholes from regulatory frameworks and include integrity, transparency and accountability safeguards,” the Bank said.
Additionally, the role of civil society cannot be underestimated, as compliance with EITI requirements can be easily undermined if the public is unable to hold officials accountable for licensing decisions that involve important national assets. “It is often said that the most important political office is that of the private citizen.”
The World Bank however expresses the hope that the manual will be useful for officials and experts seeking to improve the quality and transparency of regulatory governance of extractive and natural resource sectors, and also welcomes the contributions of all to advance global and local knowledge in the area.