The government is trying to accelerate Guyana’s application to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)—a global body whose noble objective is to ensure the open and accountable management of a member state’s extractive resources.
The reason behind Guyana’s move to fast track its application to EITI is the massive oil discovery by US oil giant, ExxonMobil. But this very company is one of the major funders of the EITI.
According to the EITI webpage, over 80 of the world’s largest oil, gas and mining companies have chosen to become EITI Supporting Companies.
On EITI’s website, it states, “To be considered a supporting company, a company has to make a minimum contribution. The oil and gas sub-constituency is required to contribute US$20,000, US$40,000 and US$60,000 depending on market capitalization.
The recommendation for the mining companies is the same. Mining companies are recommended to make the same contributions as the oil and gas companies and must contribute at least US$15,000.
“All companies are encouraged to make greater contributions.”
There is no information available on EITI’s website about the contributions it receives from Exxon and other contributing companies. EITI, however, has a plethora of information about the funds it receives from its members and the purposes for which it is used.
ExxonMobil in a published statement on EITI’s website noted that since the global body was established in 2002, it has represented a coalition of governments, companies, and civil society that aims to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.
ExxonMobil acknowledged that EITI sets forth global principles for companies to report what they pay to governments and for governments to disclose what they receive from companies.
The USA oil giant also noted that it has served on the EITI Board since 2006 and rotated off the Board in 2009, so that another international oil and gas company could serve. ExxonMobil says that it continues to serve as a Board alternate for EITI.
In a statement published by ExxonMobil on EITI’s website, the USA oil giant made a number of supporting statements as it relates to transparency and accountability in the extractive sector.
Exxon said, “We believe transparency initiatives should apply universally to all companies – publicly traded, private, and state-owned – with an interest in a country’s extractive sector; protect proprietary information; and respect the laws of a host government or a company’s contractual obligations. We support initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the Group of Eight (G-8) Transparency Initiative, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.”
The company continued, “As part of our commitment to honest and ethical behaviour, we offer our assistance to countries seeking to implement greater transparency and disclose financial information.”
It added, “We have been actively involved in helping to establish transparency agreements to disclose government revenues in the countries in which we have significant investments. (See entire statement by clicking this link: https://eiti.org/supporter/exxonmobil) “
But according to www.reuters.com, ExxonMobil had declined to provide data about its U.S taxes with EITI, even though it has given its verbal and monetary support to the entity.
The article said, “The company discloses tax and royalty information in many countries but will not say what it pays the Internal Revenue Service, according to EITI findings…” (http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-tax-exxon-mobil-idUSL1N13K1H720151202 )
Another report by the Global Witness also exposes how Exxon refused to release information about its tax payments in spite of its pledge to EITI to do same.
According to the media outfit, it was in 2015 that the USA sought to release its maiden report after joining EITI. In its report, the Global Witness reported that it was perhaps disappointing for Americans to learn that companies like ExxonMobil took the decision to not disclose information regarding their tax contributions.
Senior Legal Advisor to the Global Witness, Zorka Milin, is quoted as saying, “US citizens deserve to know how much money they are putting in state coffers, as do citizens in resource rich countries throughout the world.” (https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/exxon-and-chevron-keep-us-tax-payments-secret-undermine-government-transparency-push/)
Local authorities are nonetheless “optimistic” about the benefits to accrue from Guyana becoming a member of EITI especially as it relates to receiving help with the notoriously corrupt oil and gas sector.
EITI on the other hand makes it clear on its website that even if a country is found making satisfactory or meaningful progress with the body, it does not indicate whether there is corruption in the country or not.
“It simply means that the country has put into practice significant aspects of all EITI Requirements and thus has sufficient mechanisms of public disclosure of natural resources.”
The organization stressed that countries use the EITI as a tool to identify and address weaknesses in the management of their natural resources.
It insists that it is not a silver bullet to solve all corruption issues in the country, but it might help.
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