Mexico’s recent energy reform opened a purely state-run oil and gas sector to private investment. In a country where corruption sensitivities are high and opposition to the reform was sometimes fierce, the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) is charged with guaranteeing accountable, transparent bidding and contract management processes for new private actors in the sector, as well as Pemex, that state-owned oil company. It is a difficult, complex mandate.
Last week in Mexico City, NRGI experts presented a report detailing international best practices in contract transparency, which included specific recommendations for the CNH. Watchdog Transparencia Mexicana, private sector development study organization CESPEDES/CCE, and CNH commissioners participated. At the launch, CNH commissioner-president Juan Carlos Zepeda said his institution could surpass the goals set by the report.
So far, CNH has organized four bidding rounds and awarded 39 contracts. These contracts last between 25 and 40 years—new regulations demand that CNH maintains and increases high levels of transparency over that period. NRGI’s report aims to help CNH identify areas to improve already high contract management transparency standards, and to highlight the best practices seen on websites of regulation agencies in other countries.
NRGI senior economic analyst Thomas Lassourd stressed there is no perfect website for making regulatory information accessible, but that some actors have managed to tailor the information they provide to the specific needs of their user groups. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, for example, operates a highly specific and technical site ideal for expert-level users, while Australia’s New South Wales provides a stronger user experience without a comparable level of detail. The proposed model for Mexico’s CNH, Lassourd said, is one that would provide “different levels of detail for different types of users.”
CNH commissioner Héctor Acosta echoed the importance of transparency and accountability for better management of Mexico’s natural resources. Transparencia Mexicana’s Vanessa Silveyra described Mexico’s current efforts to adhere to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and said NRGI’s recommendations match the level of detail expected for future EITI disclosures.
But the work is far from over. CNH has started talks with civil society organizations in order to create an independent monitoring group to make sure these recommendations come into practice. We at NRGI intend to remain involved, applying technical expertise that will connect the transparency concerns of civil society with CNH’s work.
Experts discussed NRGI’s CNH report in Washington, D.C., on 24 January 2017.
Alonso Hidalgo is a Latin America program assistant with NRGI.