Secrecy haunts oil sector, says Global Witness NGO

High levels of corporate secrecy must be tackled if Myanmar is to benefit from its oil and gas wealth, claimed international NGO Global Witness.

It released a report highlighting its attempt to find the ultimate beneficial owners of the 47 international and local companies that won rights to 36 onshore and offshore blocks in Myanmar in the past year.

A total of 13 companies, including two local firms, provided full replies to Global Witness, it said.

“Secret company structures enable powerful individuals to hide their identities and there are countless examples globally of corrupt officials awarding major deals to companies which they later turn out to own,” it said.

“Putting company ownership details into the public domain provides a crucial safeguard against corruption.”

Among Myanmar oil and gas companies, Machinery & Solutions – owned partly by its managing director U Aung Ye Soe – and Myanmar Petroleum Exploration and Production (MPEP) which is 50 percent owned by U Moe Myint – disclosed their ultimate owners.

It also noted MPEP aims to go public “in the near future”. While most of the 47 companies are involved in one or two blocks each, MPEP is the local partner in eight of the 36 total blocks.

The list of positive responses from international firms includes several giant listed companies such as ConocoPhilips and Total as well as state-run companies including Malaysia’s Petronas and Brunei National Petroleum Company.

“The Myanmar government has a golden opportunity to take a lead on this critical issue within Southeast Asia, and show that it is willing to live up to its promises of reform and real openness,” the report said.

The Myanmar Times reported last year that transparency was a concern when the government reshuffled energy minister U Than Htay and his deputy, U Htin Aung during a period of controversial decisions awarding exploration licences and production concessions.

Myanmar has also been attempting to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative as part of its reforms.


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