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EU Financial transparency

Lack of consistency across EU hampers financial transparency

Published on: 18 October 2018

An anti-corruption measure to make European mining and logging companies more financially transparent is producing useful information, but more needs to be done for it to be implemented consistently.

Statutory obligation

The EU Accounting Directive was introduced by the European Union in 2013 and requires large companies listed and registered in the EU and operating in the oil, gas, mining and logging sectors to publicly report payments they make to the governments of the countries they operate in on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis.

The Directive also created a statutory obligation for member states to monitor companies’ compliance with the Directive.

Researchers at Newcastle University Business School, with colleagues from the University of Sheffield, Heriot Watt and Robert Gordon University, found evidence that the financial reports required are being used and are found useful by civil society as the legislation intended – progress on the situation before the law was introduced.

The research team also found that companies accepted the legislation and in some cases went beyond what they were required to report.

But their evidence pointed to several areas of improvement. Although more companies now disclose more payments, the researchers found that this is not being done in a consistent format. They also found that EU member states are not implementing legislation consistently and that the statutory obligation to monitor compliance is mainly not being met.

Variations in implementation

The research team looked at 245 reports from companies listed and registered in the EU and conducted interviews with a range of regulators, legislators, preparers, industry representatives, auditors, investors and NGOs.

They found variations in how EU member states and companies interpret which companies fall into the scope of the directive and differences in the interpretation of payment categories.

They also found that almost one in five companies do not report the name of the government entity to which payments are made.

Professor Louise Crawford, Newcastle University Business School, said: “We found that compliance and reporting against this directive had been taken seriously by companies, but wasn’t perfect, in part due to different interpretations of the law in practice. However, we did see that greater transparency has been progressed and that the reports on payments to governments are being used by civil society as an accountability tool for how revenues generated from extraction and logging activities are being distributed to civil societies that are affected by extractives’ activities in resource rich countries.” 

EU review

The Directive is currently under review at EU level and the research team will present their findings to European Commissioners, MEPs, industry representatives and NGOs at an event at the European Parliament on 18 October. They will use the meeting to recommend that a shared, EU-wide repository be created to improve accessibility to reports on payments to governments.

They will also recommend the creation and publication of a list of in-scope companies at EU level and clarification of how the law should be interpreted in practice.

In addition they will call for more effective government compliance monitoring including a requirement for reports on payments to governments to have received at least limited assurance audits, or reconciliation to audited figures, before being submitted.

The European Commission should publish the findings of the review of the Accounting Directive legislation and recommendations in the first half of 2019.

‘Beating the Resource Curse: Is the EU Oil, Gas and Mining Transparency Legislation Fit for Purpose?’ takes place on Thursday 18 October and has been organised by Transparency International EU and Publish What You Pay. The event will bring together representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission as well as industry representatives and civil society from resource rich countries to exchange views on the implementation of the legislation and possible improvements. 


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