Regarded as one of the ‘faces of transparency’ by the EITI, Anton Rühling works as a programme manager at Open Oil in Berlin, where he oversees the development of open data applications, including the contract and concession repository, the Aleph search engine to data mine corporate disclosures (which contains 3 million compliance documents from extractives companies), and the mapping of corporate networks. In this interview with the EITI Secretariat, on the sidelines of the EITI’s gathering of partner organisations, dedicated to discussing priorities for strengthening extractive industry governance recently in Oslo, he speaks about his current project involving an analysis of Nigeria’s first generation offshore production sharing contracts. Excerpts
What do you do?
At Open Oil we are mostly working on financial modelling capacity and systems. Modelling is incredibly important to the management of extractive resources across the value chain, but in our work we found that many governments are lacking in that regards. This starts from the design and drafting of the fiscal regime – including the drafting of model contracts – and continues through negotiations into the assessment and monitoring of revenues for projects that are in production.
Is there a project you are currently working on that you’re particularly excited about?
Currently I am very excited about a project we are working on with NEITI (Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative), which is a test case to implement financial modelling capacities at NEITI, but also to produce concrete results. It’s an analysis of Nigeria’s first generation offshore production sharing contracts signed in the 1990s and 2000s. The government had the right to review the terms of those contracts, which it never exercised. The question the model answers is: how much extra would the government have received if it had converted all the first generation contracts to the regime they set up in 2005. Our model estimates somewhere in the region of USD 15 billion. It’s not a question of re-opening the issue, but NEITI were very keen to take transparency to the next level.
How is the EITI’s work and data relevant to your work?
The EITI creates a platform for exchange, to get in touch with governments and other stakeholders. And through this network of practitioners and stakeholders, we at Open Oil are channeling a lot of our work. At the same time, we are also frequent user of EITI data for our modelling work.
What are the policy areas the EITI should prioritise in the run up to next year’s Global Conference?
I do like the idea of mainstreaming and integrating the EITI into existing government workflows. It’s good that that will be a theme. Other than that, from an Open Oil perspective, it would be great to consider how the work we do around modelling can be the link between the EITI and existing government procedures. At its core, the EITI is about numbers and so is financial modelling, but financial modelling has a bit more flexibility to target what is actually in demand at a particular point in time. Therefore I think the skillsets that come out of the modelling exercises would also be very relevant for EITI, and I think the EITI itself would improve with more developed capacities in the stakeholder groups.