Tailoring Tools for Transparency: exploring public administration and data management of mining licences and associated revenues in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Malawi

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


Transparency has been the point of convergence for stakeholders in mining, heralded in the African Mining Vision and promoted through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The call for transparency has singled out the public disclosure of payments made by mining companies to governments, and the reconciliation of these with receipts held by governments. Disclosure of beneficial ownership and contracts, project-by-project reporting, and transparent application, auction and bidding processes for natural resources are also being demanded. Open data – or public access to information – enshrined as a human right in a number of international and African declarations, is seen as fundamental in enabling citizens to hold their governments accountable and reducing power asymmetry between players due to information gaps. Such open data, upheld as a central pillar of transparency and accountability, relies on effective public administration and data management within the corridors of national mineral agencies, ministries and departments. Reporting for the EITI, implementation of national mineral, mining and petroleum policies and laws, and institutionalisation of the African Mining Vision and African Peer Review Mechanism are contingent on civil servants’ ability to accurately collect, record and report the desired data. For this information to be useful for businesses, governments, and citizens, the data has to be accessible, verifiable and usable. Yet too often, discourse, research and efforts on transparency and accountability in the mining sector in African countries overlook the systems required to make this possible (Eigen 2014). Initiatives “have had little to offer civil servants, other than putting pressure and raising red flags. The EITI process is a diagnostic toolkit for stakeholders. Should we not also develop tools for public administrators?” (Andersen 2013). Within this neglected space of practice and research, I explored the engagement of the Revenue Development Foundation, a non-profit consultancy, with governments in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Malawi in developing technical solutions, that is, tailoring tools for transparency. These solutions include the Mining Cadastre Administration System and Online Data Repository. I show how governmental departments are navigating the administration of mining licences to efficiently manage the lifecycle of licences, beginning with the initial application for a licence, and the associated revenues, and how they are negotiating the publishing of data. Examining the site of data production – including agents, agitators and activities – and the management of administering mineral rights is vital in carving out a more nuanced understanding of how transparency is translated in public administration. The ultimate aim for improved public management, as demanded by citizens in these countries, is the conversion of natural resource wealth into human development for today and tomorrow. We cannot lose sight of this. The presentation and paper were delivered at the Centre of African Studies (CAS) and the Global Development Academy of the University of Edinburgh's conference 'Mining and Political Transformations in Africa', 24-25 April 2014
PeriodApr 2014
Event titleMining and Political Transformations in Africa
Event typeConference
LocationEdinburgh, United KingdomShow on map