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Tunisia

Development of an "Open Data" Platform Dedicated to Information Dealing with Oil and Mine Sector Investment (TN0018)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Tunisia, First Action Plan, 2014-16

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Industry

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Extractive Industries, Fiscal Openness, Land Rights & Spatial Planning, Natural Resources, Open Data, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Tunisia End-of-Term Report 2014-2016, Tunisia IRM Progress Report 2014-2015

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

This platform will include the following categories of data:
- The updated status of the bonds mining,
- General indicators of investment in the sector,
- All data relating to production, consumption, import and export, distribution
and sale contracts, etc.,
- companies operating in the sector and the size of their investments and
activities and their contracts,
- fiscal crops derived from the state sector,

IRM End of Term Status Summary

18: "Open Data" platform for petroleum and mining sectors

Commitment Text: This platform will include the following categories of data:

       The updated status of the bonds mining,

       General indicators of investment in the sector,

       All data relating to production, consumption, import and export, distribution and sale contracts, etc.,

       Companies operating in the sector and the size of their investments and

       Activities and their contracts,

       Fiscal crops derived from the state sector.

Responsible Institution(s): Ministry of Industry

Start Date: July 2014 End Date: June 2016

Commitment aim

This commitment sought to increase transparency by publishing information on mining and energy resources. This information included companies operating in the sector, and all data relating to production, consumption, import and export, distribution, and sale contracts.

Status

Midterm: Limited

It was unclear how many datasets were populated on the data portal the government launched in the first year of the action plan. This resulted in a limited completion level. For more information, please see the 2014-2015 IRM Midterm Progress Report.[Note 54: OGP, Tunisia IRM Midterm Progress Report 2014-15, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Tunisia2014-15_IRM%20Progress%20Report_Eng.pdf. ]

End of term: Complete

In September 2015, the Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Mines launched the open data portal (http://data.industrie.gov.tn/). The portal was built using CKAN technology and, since the midterm, has been populated with more than 200 datasets, including 50 contracts for oil exploration and exploitation. Numerous organisations involved in the mining and petroleum sector, including the Ministry of Industry, energy companies, and regulatory agencies, contribute data and publish contracts on the site. Information is organised by themes, such as oil contracts, energy balances, oil, gas, electricity, energy management, mines, and phosphate. In addition, users can filter by geographic area, company, or data type.


Did it open government?

Access to information: Major

The development of an open data portal is an important step in that it allows civil society to analyse important data on mining resources, and can enhance their advocacy efforts with available public facts and numbers. Furthermore, the open data platform was created because of demands from civil society, a large portion of citizens, and opposing parties in parliament.[Note 55: Hafawa Rebhi, “Oil Contracts Disclosure: Red Lines Limiting Transparency,” Nawaat, 1 July 2016, https://nawaat.org/portail/2016/07/01/oil-contracts-disclosure-red-lines-limiting-transparency/]

Several CSOs, such as e-Gov Society and the Institut Arabe des Chefs d'Entreprises (IACE), have expressed satisfaction with the technical specifications of the portal, and have praised the release of some public contract details with private oil companies.[Note 56: Interview with Abdelhamid Jarmouhi, Open Gov Group, 27 September 2016, and Maher Kallel, E-Gov Society, 18 September 2016.] They have determined that the portal meets international open data standards, specifically regarding the availability of the data in a datastore and an Application Program Interface (API). However, other stakeholders (e.g., I-Watch and members of the OpenGovTN group) were sceptical about the platform, and questioned the relevance of the published datasets in exposing and limiting corruption.[Note 57: CSOs interviewed: I-Watch, Open Gov group, and Al Bawsala, October 2016.] A recurring criticism from CSOs is the failure to publish all oil contracts (currently, only some are released). According to an interview with Med Dhia Hammami, an activist for access to information in the energy sector, some details about the revenue and expenses per company/permit/project are missing from the portal.[Note 58: Interview with Med Dhia Hammami, 6 February 2017.] Hammami stated that the government is reluctant to publish financial data, and does not respond to information requests regarding the energy sector.

Contracts disclosed on the open data portal notably shed light on the relationships between the state, Tunisian and foreign operators, and ETAP (the state-owned company that manages petroleum exploration and production activities). However, other equally vital actors in the energy and mining sector are absent. For example, the Tunisian Company of Electricity and Gas’ (STEG) natural gas purchasing contracts from providers are not published.[Note 59: Hafawa Rebhi, “Oil Contracts Disclosure: Red Lines Limiting Transparency,” Nawaat, 1 July 2016,  https://nawaat.org/portail/2016/07/01/oil-contracts-disclosure-red-lines-limiting-transparency/.] Unlike the oil sector, the mining sector has not released all exploration permits or exploitation concessions on the portal. Furthermore, environmental impact assessments are required under the Hydocarbons Code of 1999,[Note 60: Republique Tunisienne, “Code des Hydocarbures,” 2011, http://www.droit-afrique.com/upload/doc/tunisie/Tunisie-Code-2011-hydrocarbures.pdf.] which states that all operators must provide studies to both the ministry’s Energy Department and the National Agency for Environmental Protection. Environmental information is not widely available on the open data portal, despite its relevance and the challenges facing Tunisia (toxic and phosphogypsum emissions from the phosphate industry, natural gas flaring in oil fields,[Note 61: Hafawa Rebhi, “Tunisie : Le torchage du gaz naturel, une dilapidation qui perdure,” 21 April 2014, http://www.leconomistemaghrebin.com/2014/04/21/tunisie-torchage-gaz-naturel-dilapidation-perdure/.] and oil spills).

I-Watch (a leading anti-corruption CSO), Open Gov group, and Al Bawsala (a Tunisian civic participation CSO) all view the portal as a good first step. However, CSOs believe that the Ministry handpicked some contracts to publish according to non-transparent criteria. Thus, the process for selecting and publishing contracts on the portal could be made more transparent, and installing an accountability mechanism could better equip citizens to request complete contract transparency. A report from the Natural Resource Governance Institute came to similar conclusions. It noted that, because of the inclusion of extractives transparency in the OGP commitments and the creation of the open data portal, “CSOs and the media have turned their attention to more intricate and delicate issues related to the extractive sector, namely contracts and contract disclosure.”[Note 62: Natural Resource Governance Institute, “Tunisia's Second Act: Noting Progress, Accountability Actors Demand Contract Transparency,” 30 April 2015,

http://resourcegovernance.org/blog/tunisias-second-act-noting-progress-accountability-actors-demand-contract-transparency. ]

In February 2016, the government announced its intention to join the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).[Note 63: Natural Resource Governance Institute, Tunisia EITI Commitment Big Step on Long Path To Improved Governance, 21 November 2016, http://www.resourcegovernance.org/blog/tunisia-eiti-commitment-big-step-long-path-improved-governance.

] Despite some remaining issues of disclosure, the open data portal created under this commitment represents a major step forward for transparency, and is a key component placing Tunisia on the path to EITI compliance.

Carried forward?

This commitment was completed. In the new action plan, the government has commited itself to joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (commitment 1). Even though the commitment is considered complete, the IRM researcher recommends the following:

       Review published reports and explain the reasons for excluding some contracts; note when certain information has been omitted;

       Consider the publication of all contracts;

       Create space in the platform to allow citizens to interact with the Ministry of Industry.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership