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Improved oversight of the mining sector builds stronger governments in Francophone Africa Stories

18 March, 2021

In celebration of the Month of Francophonie, Cowater International is pleased to feature our project implementation footprint in the francophone world. The Improved Oversight of the Extractive Industry in Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, more commonly known as PASIE, is Cowater International’s flagship project in Francophone Africa.

Launched in March 2016, PASIE aims to improve the ability of governments to monitor their domestic mining activities and strengthen the way revenue collected from mining delivers improved access to and quality of public services.

PASIE workshop

PASIE is an ambitious multi-country initiative that is supporting Supreme Audit Institutions in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Madagascar and Mali, as well as other mining stakeholders including, government ministries, civil society, parliament and the media, to increase their knowledge of and ability to effectively scrutinize the use of natural resources as an economic driver for growth and poverty alleviation. Understanding the relationship between the exploitation of natural resources and local development is especially important for those most profoundly impacted by mining activities, including women, children and indigenous communities.

Why is mining sector oversight important?

Mining activities in Africa have been a boon for many countries. Burkina Faso and Mali rank respectively 2nd and 3rd on the list of countries where mining has the biggest impact on GDP. Mining has also been a burden which has led to an increase in corruption and illegal practices such as accepting bribes in return for access to mining sites or to evade environmental regulations, which can result in the loss of revenues or further contributes to the deterioration of local environments. Studies by institutions such as Global Witness have estimated that loses due to corruption could account for as much as a fifth of mining revenues in some countries. Developing economies have struggled with oversight due to the complex nature of the sector and lack of domestic expertise.

How is PASIE supporting increased government capacity in mining oversight?

First, PASIE is providing classroom training, hands-on coaching, on-the-job-training, technical expertise and tools to the four participating countries to improve mining oversight. The project has developed five technical audit manuals, which provide guidance to auditors on subjects such as certification of EITI revenue disclosure reports, a key tool in ensuring greater transparency and accountability. The project has trained and supported over 500 auditors and more than 450 mining stakeholders in an effort to increase oversight capacity across multiple government and non-government organizations.

Second, PASIE has tackled some of the most pressing issues affecting the industry including deciphering complex contractual agreements between the mining companies and the government, which have often disproportionately favored the companies. In addition, the project is helping governments navigate the issues of transfer pricing and corporate taxation practices that deprive countries of significant royalties by means that could be deemed questionable at times.

Third, auditors supported by the project through a series of pilot audits launched in 2019 have applied their new skills in identifying inherent weaknesses in government mining regulations and practices that fail to adequately curtail corruption, consider the true environmental impact or how mining disproportionately affects already marginalized and at-risk groups including women and children. In Madagascar, the audit flagged failures in applying national rules in the granting of permits which allowed mining to occur in environmentally protected zones. In Burkina Faso, the audit noted a lack of structured planning and accountability in the use of mining profits to fund programs that offset the impact of mining in the local communities. In Mali, audits tackled the issue of lack of foresight to ensure that funds are allocated to rehabilitate mining sites once the mines are shuttered.

As the project enters its final year, its focus will now shift to ensuring the sustainability of its accomplishments. Through its partnership with CREFIAF – the regional audit standards body for francophone sub-Saharan Africa – the tools and expertise developed by PASIE will support CREFIAF’s 23 member states in strengthening national capacity for oversight of the mining sector.

 


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