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sharing in governance of extractive industries

Afghanistan’s Transparency Portal – a window on mining and oil projects

Authored by Aasmund Andersen and Christina Berger

On 25 November 2018, journalists, civil society members and senior government officials gather at the government media information centre in Kabul. National TV is broadcasting, live streaming on media channels is under way. Hon. Minister of Mines and Petroleum Nargis Nehan takes the floor. What’s the commotion about? 

It is about a major step on the road towards systematic disclosure of extractives data taken by the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP) that launched the Online Transparency Portal that day. The portal enables citizens, investors, government employees to see in real-time who operates a project and how much revenue (royalties) is paid to the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. 

This portal will improve confidence among investors and citizens in the governance of the extractives sector,” said Minister Nehan. 

Systematically disclosing license holders and payments

The portal is the window the public has (once they've completed the free registration) on the status of licenses that the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has issued to companies. This includes the name of the license holder, details on whether the license is active, the type of minerals extracted and the payments made in connection with the license.

For example, you can find which license made the highest payments: license EXP 1/2008 held by the MCC consortium. It was allocated on 8 April 2008 and will expire on 8 April 2048. You can find all the payments related to the license under the “Payments” tab.

For some entries, you will find more than that. The license EXPL 2/2012 contains the tax ID number of the company (issued by the Ministry of Finance), the core contract terms, production information and data on the beneficial owners of the license holder.

You can also download the license and payments list in excel. 

Figure 1MoMP Transparency Portal

A fuller picture by pulling data together

The portal pulls together data from two different government management systems: the Mining Cadastre Administration System (MCAS), which deals with the workflow to administer license allocation; and the Non-tax revenue system (NTRS), which deals with managing the payments that are due from companies holding licences, such as royalty payments, penalty fees and surface rent. 

License and payment information in (almost) real-time

In many EITI countries, payment data is disclosed more than two years after the payments are made. The last formal EITI Report from EITI Afghanistan is from 2015. Yet, through the Transparency Portal, details on payments made yesterday are available today. 

The portal is updated automatically each day from the records administered by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. The database contains all licences issued– including those that have expired. As of today, it contains over 1,000 licenses and over 9,000 license-related payments from small and large-scale mining and oil companies. The payments published represent over USD 180 Million in government revenue. 

More ambitious plans ahead 

Data on contracts, beneficial owners and production follows ongoing efforts on digitisation. When project-by-project payments, production figures, contract terms and beneficial ownership information come together, citizens can better assess if they are getting a goo....

To complete the information on company ID numbers (TINs), the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum is planning to connect their license management system (MCAS) to the Ministry of Finance’s tax administration system (SIGTAS). 

EITI can use mainstreamed data for reporting

Publishing real-time license and payment information is mainstreaming the disclosure requirement of the EITI Standard into government systems. National audits (for the EITI Report) will now draw on data directly from the Ministry's information systems. 

Afghanistan was recently temporarily suspended from the EITI for its slow progress towards meeting the Standard. The statement of the Board specifically mentioned the progress made on license transparency. The launch of the Transparency Portal will play a key role in addressing the corrective actions that were identified. Although more work remains to achieve the full potential, these systems are now a key vehicle for institutional reform.

About the software:

The MCAS, NTRS and Transparency Portal are license-free software offered to developing countries by the Revenue Development Foundation. It has been implemented in Afghanistan with funding from DFID and GIZ, with advisory support from the EU.

Aasmund Andersen is the Managing Director of Revenue Development Foundation. You can contact him at aandersen@revenuedevelopment.org. This blog was co-authored with Christina Berger at the International Secretariat. Christina supports EITI implementing countries in bringing information online.

Image credits: Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Afghanistan.

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