Confronting a Life-threatening Pollution: A Guide for Credible Environmental and Social Audit of Petroleum Companies’ Operations in South Sudan

This policy brief discusses how the recently proposed environmental and social audit of the petroleum
companies’ operations by the Ministry of Petroleum can be conducted to generate scientific evidence that can assist in finding a permanent solution to pollution in South Sudan’s petroleum producing areas. The environment is a human survival right that includes the rights to water, food, and health, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966. South
Sudan is facing a catastrophic pollution, a ticking time bomb, that started to accumulate during the Southern liberation war, when Khartoum used the oil at the expense of the local people and their environment to win the war. If this legacy pollution is not immediately addressed, it can destabilize the oil industry and threaten people’s survival rights. The proposed audit is a step in the right direction. However, it should not be a mere traditional audit of environmental standards compliance and management system inefficiencies. Instead, it should be broad based in scope by examining not only environmental standards compliance and management system inefficiencies but by also examining the extent of environmental and social damage. In addition to using environmental auditing best practices from the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, the proposed audit
should also use ASTM international standards to assess the extent of contamination of the petroleum
producing sites. The proposed audit should determine the extent of environmental and social damage, quantify the costs of remediation and rehabilitation, assess the petroleum companies’ compliance with standards, and produce a detailed report with recommendations that include remediation and compensation measures enforceable by an Act of Parliament or Presidential Order. The audit process should be independent, transparent, inclusive or participatory. The firm to conduct the audit should be procured through an international competitive bidding to ensure the results are credible and acceptable to all stakeholders.