The oil, gas, and mining sectors of many countries often seem to be surrounded by secrecy and suspicions of vast wealth gone missing through a combination of bad deals with foreign companies, poor management, and corruption. There has long been a sense that oil, gas, and mining contracts in particular have been beyond the reach of citizens and their representatives. One of the measures that a number of countries have introduced to combat this sentiment is the subject of this guide: requiring approval of extractive industry contracts by elected representatives in parliament. The experiences of the countries researched for this guide, with an eye toward informing a process for Tunisia, suggest that this approach can bring benefits as well as risks when it comes to governance of the extractive sectors.
Tunisia is one of the most recent countries to adopt this policy and the 2014 constitution includes several provisions relevant to natural resources. Specifically article 13 requires parliamentary approval of natural resource contracts, in addition to establishing the Tunisian people’s ownership of natural resources and proclaiming the state’s sovereignty over such resources. The adoption of article 13 poses a number of practical questions and policy challenges that have been an important topic of debate within government, parliament and civil society. In particular, the design of the approval process and the specific role of the parliament have been surrounded by questions.
This study assesses experiences of parliaments around the world with contract approval and highlights some of the challenges countries faced with parliamentary approval. The publication also includes a clear and detailed overview of the current contracting process for the hydrocarbons and mining sectors in Tunisia. Finally, the authors formulate guiding principles by taking the lessons learned from global experience and adapting them to the specificities of Tunisia’s current law and practice for extractive sector contracting.