NOTE: Greenpeace is yet to publish source documents online for allegations and the FOI release seen by this blog does not provide evidence that aid money has been used.
- Oil frontiers: British government uses aid money to back oil drilling in UNESCO World Heritage Site, Maeve McClenaghan, Joe Sandler Clarke and Lawrence Carter, EnergyDesk Greenpeace, 21 November 2016
- UK aid money spent trying to boost British role in Malawi oil sector, Alice Ross, The Guardian, 21 November 2016
The British government spent thousands of pounds of aid money on a project aimed at “establishing the UK as the partner of choice” in the nascent oil and gas sector of one of the world’s poorest countries.
A document obtained by Greenpeace through freedom of information laws and shared exclusively with the Guardian show the Foreign Office spent nearly £30,000 of overseas development assistance funding on a project supporting Malawi’s government in developing the country’s oil and gas sector. The document, written before David Cameron left office, shows that boosting British commercial interests was already an important part of the Malawi project.
The money came from the Foreign Office’s prosperity fund, which includes among its policy goals a commitment to “work for a secure transition to a low carbon economy”.
According to McClenaghan, Clarke and Carter,
UK firm Surestream Petroleum has been active in Malawi since 2011 but has faced problems exploring for oil.
In 2014 its two oil exploration licenses were frozen and, separately, questions were raised about how the company had come to buy the two, potentially lucrative blocks, which both overlap Lake Malawi.
The firm – like many of its peers – has actively cultivated a relationship with the UK government, meeting with a Home Office minister back in 2013 as well as donating hundreds of pounds in 2014 to the British High Commission in Malawi to help fund a party for the Queen’s birthday.
At that event the High Commissioner for Malawi, Michael Nevin, thanked Surestream and others for their donations, and noted that: “DFID too will provide more support to the private sector. This includes working with the Government to create a better enabling environment for business”.
Politician Ben Botolo, who worked for years as Malawi’s Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources, confirmed to Energydesk that he met with both Surestream and UK ambassador Michael Nevin repeatedly: “I’ve spoken with Michael on this issue many times, he was interested in how to get exploration started, both for UK and Malawian businesses.”
Surestream and the UK government deny that any lobbying took place on behalf of the company.
The Freedom of Information request and response may be made public here.
A conversation between the British High Commission in Zambia and Tullow Oil is available for download here. The current High Commissioner to Zambia, included in the email communication that has been released in relation to Zambia, is Fergus Cochrane-Dyet OBE who was declared persona non grata by the late President Bingu wa Mutharika in 2011 following a leaked cable in which the President’s leadership was described as ‘ever more autocratic’.