The Petitioners filed this petition in December 2011 challenging the constitutionality of the then Section 59 of the Petroleum (Exploration & Production) Act Cap 150, the confidentiality clauses in the Petroleum Production Sharing Agreements between Uganda and the various oil companies, and the ‘Guidelines for accessing Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) by Members of Parliament and Authorised Persons’ issued by the Speaker of Parliament in October 2011. Prior to the hearing of the petition, a new, the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act, 2013 law was passed by Parliament repealing Petroleum (Exploration & Production) Act Cap 150. The 2013 Act retained the impugned provisions of Section 59 of Cap 150 under Section 153 of the 2013 Act.
The Petition contended that the non-disclosure of the PSAs on the basis of confidentiality clauses and Section 153 of the 2013 Act (initially Section 59 of Cap 150) was inconsistent with the right of access to information under Article 41 of the Constitution. The Petition further asserted that the Guidelines issued by the Speaker of Parliament on the basis of the impugned section of the Act were inconsistent with Articles 79, 90 and 244 (2) of the Constitution which empower the Parliament to make laws, and specifically laws relating to minerals and petroleum.
The matter came up for hearing on the 27thSeptember 2018, and the panel of the Court observed that the Court has pronounced itself profoundly on the right of access to information, the scope of enjoyment of the right, the acceptable parameters of limiting the said right, and the enforcement of the right. The Court noted that it is the position of the law that Government contracts are public documents which should be accessible to the public. Whereas the Court noted that the Petition raised valid questions for constitutional interpretation, it reserved the view that the questions raised by the Petition are sufficiently addressed by its earlier decisions. The Court further guided that the Petitioners could enforce the right to access information under the Access to Information Act, 2005 and if denied access to the requested information, the Petitioners could proceed under the procedure for enforcement of rights under Article 50 of the Constitution.
The Court however dismissed the Petition without making any declarations on the questions raised by the Petitioners. The CEPIL legal team is examining the outcome of the decision with a view of taking further steps to ensure transparency in oil sector.