Payments don't add up in Congo's resources report

Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:45pm GMT
 

* 2007 EITI report out, 2008 and 2009 reports to follow soon

* Congo wants to join EITI before end June

* 2007 figures show inconsistencies of at least $75 million

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, March 22 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo published on Monday its first report charting mining and oil payments, showing wide variation in what it received and what companies said they paid it.

Congo, whose indebted economy relies heavily on mineral exports, wants to join a global transparency scheme before it celebrates 50 years of independence in June, in an effort to attract more investment.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a group of governments, companies, civil society groups, investors and international organisations.

It ensures countries chart how much companies say they pay the state and how much the state says it receives from companies in an effort to spotlight inconsistencies and corruption.

The report shows the 25 companies surveyed -- 20 in mining and five in oil -- paid $405 million to government revenue agencies, which in turn collected almost the same amount, but discrepancies still exist within the figures.

Accountancy firm PWC, auditing the figures, found discrepancies amounting to $75 million within the oil sector.

In some cases companies said they paid more than an individual agency said it received and in some cases agencies received more than companies paid.

"We can't interpret the figures -- it shows things are not clear in this country," Gotz von Stumpfeldt of the German Development Corporation, which is supporting Congo's efforts to join EITI, told Reuters after the launch of the report.

"Clearer figures will help the country to use the information as a tool against corruption," he said.

Resource-rich but cash-poor Congo has been a candidate country since 2008 and applied to delay its final validation date to June 15, ahead of celebrations of 50 years of independence from Belgian rule at the end of June.

"It is a revolution, but we can't change the world in one day," said Minister of Planning Olivier Kamitatu at the launch of the report on Monday.

"I think the report will mobilise everyone," he said, adding he hoped the 2008 and 2009 reports would come out before the end of June. Congo must show evidence of regular reporting if it is to become a full member of the scheme.

Kamitatu said he wants to expand the scope of future reports, adding more companies and sectors including diamonds.

International mining companies are pressing Congo to join the system so their shareholders will feel more comfortable about investing in the country, which endures extreme poverty, corruption, and fighting in the east and north.

Congo ranks among the world's worst places to do business, according to the World Bank. (Editing by Daniel Magnowski and James Jukwey)

 
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