Baghdad has entered into final negotiations with a consultant for the contract to plan the long-term development of the country’s oil and gas sector.

Government officials have been negotiating the deal in Beirut, known as the Integrated National Energy Strategy Technical Assistance (Inesta) scheme, according to sources close to the project. Talks are expected to be finalised by the end of the April.

Iraq is currently in the process of negotiating the $5m contract with the firm and expects it to be finalised within a month, according to a source. A final decision was expected to be made by the end of February.

“The government has been through an evaluation process, shortlisted and evaluated proposals from a number of large international consultancy firms”, says a source.

Various international consultants including the US’ McKinsey & Company and PFC Energy bid for the deal in January, but US consultant Booz & Company emerged as the frontrunner to win the contract at the end of February.

The government formed a steering committee in December 2009, with representation from the main energy sector ministries. It is headed by Thamir Ghaban, an adviser to the prime minister’s advisory commission.

The World Bank will provide financing and technical oversight for the project.

The winning consultant will work alongside the government, building a review of the key energy sector characteristics, comparing Iraq with other countries of similar economic and energy circumstances, and formulating its strategic options for the development of its energy sector.

It will also be required to review key environmental and social policy issues relevant to the energy sector, as well as assessing Iraq’s energy equipment supply and services industries.