By Gabriel Matut Maliah
OPINION – South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation blessed with abundant natural resources, which if managed responsibly through transparency and accountability by the government of South Sudan could lead to sustainable development and long-term success. One of the most important sectors that has been boosting South Sudan’s economy since independence in 2011 is the petroleum sector and this requires government to heavily invest in its human resources to improve their management and technical skills.
According to various statements made at different occasions by current Minister of Petroleum, Hon. Puot Kang, current Undersecretary of the Ministry of Petroleum, Eng. Awow Daniel, current Managing Director of Nile Petroleum Corporation, Eng. Bol Ring and the former Managing Director of Nile Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Chol Deng, the country is destined to take full ownership of its petroleum operations by 2027 AD.
However, the current institutional challenges of Ministry of Petroleum and the Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nile Pet) as the government entities poses major threat in transforming the sector, as predetermined. Challenges like disputes over the management of the sector because of lack of adherence to laws and regulations governing them, and low institutional capacities shall be barriers to plans of taking over as an independent State oil operator in 2027.
In Petroleum Act 2012, clause 12 (1), (2), (3) and clause 13 (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), the powers and functions of each institution as the regulating authority and commercial entity of the government are well spelt there. Besides, the laws and other regulations like Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement have clearly stipulated their roles and should there be any disputes, it would be resolved within the law and for public consumption; the two are always inseparable when it comes to national interests.
For the nation’s sake, we urge the two institutions to cooperate and jointly carry out the task of transforming the petroleum sector for the interest of South Sudan to advanced level as in Equinor (Statoil) of Norway, Petronas of Malaysia and CNPC of China …just to mention few of successful states oil companies in the petroleum sector in the world.
Moreover, South Sudan Petroleum Act 201, Chapter 15, Clause 65 (2), (4), (5) requires any oil companies operating in the country to provide sufficient training programmes to South Sudanese working in joint operating companies.
Similarly, Clause 66 (1), and 67(1), (2) and, (3), requires oil and gas companies in the country to transfer knowledge to national employees and to provide the Ministry of Petroleum local content plans detailing local recruitment, employment, training, transfer of skills, and knowledge to South Sudanese. Since there was no follow-up and implementation timeframe from Ministry of Petroleum from 2012, nothing done by oil companies as to clauses aforementioned.
With the current Unified Human Resource Policy Manual 2020 for South Sudan and Local Content regulation, 2019, we hope the Ministry of Petroleum will lay out follow-up implementation tactics and strategies. Here we need leaders that will produce tangible results; hence, the notion that leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results is true in this context – where leaders are the agents of change.
In summary, for South Sudan to compete regionally, and to build sustainable, desirable economy and prosperous state, Ministry of Petroleum and Nile Petroleum Corporation in particular to be stand-alone entity in term of its petroleum operations, in addition to their proposed action plans of takeover, should consider the following recommendations:
Any appointment to service in joint operating companies and Nile Pet itself should be merit-based to fulfill mission and vision of Nile Petroleum Corporation and the country at large and to also minimize political/tribal appointments;
Prioritize yearly capacity building as the top priority for the development of all industry employees to reach world-class levels of technical knowledge and management skills to ensure that we remain resilient and thrive in future advanced technologies;
Approve yearly budget and programme to provide undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships with some of world’s leading universities in Africa, USA, UK, Malaysia, China, India and Australia plus others in petroleum and other related fields, as provided in Petroleum Act 12, Clauses 65,and 67 to develop national employees to the highest global standards;
All technically qualified South Sudanese nationals working with foreign companies in the country and abroad should be brought back home, and hired with good pay in the top management of Nile Pet so that they are part of reforms in the sector;
A sincere cooperation, mutual trust and understanding should be forged by the two institutions for South Sudan to move forward and join the rests of the world in building prosperous nations that are able to manage and fight the current economic turndown and future pandemics in this troubled world;
Should work closely with National Workers Trade Union of Petroleum and Mining, and its sub-offices in joint operating companies and other relevant institutions as watchdogs to ensure that policies, regulations and other applicable laws in the sector are implemented in letter and spirit;
Principles of effective risk management should be your governance guiding principles.
The author is a Geologist, Corporate Governance Researcher and a Secretary of Employee Affairs/Relations in The Workers Trade Union of Petroleum and Mining, GPOC Sub-office, Juba and can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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