Aug 11, 2017 News
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) yesterday confirmed Kaieteur News’ article which stated that only the Commissioner General of the Authority has real knowledge about the content of the agreement signed between ExxonMobil and the Government of Guyana.
Not even managers know what the contract states. GRA said that this is just the way things have to be in order to maintain the confidentiality of the contract.
In a public missive, GRA said that it remains firmly committed to fulfilling its obligations as one of the regulatory bodies for the rapidly emerging oil and gas sector.
The Authority said that part of that commitment involves the imposition of rigid systems to closely monitor companies that are undertaking exploration and extraction of oil offshore in keeping with the contractual agreement between the Guyana Government and such companies, including ExxonMobil.
GRA stated that it is privy to such contractual arrangements.
“However in keeping with the law this information is confidential. To maintain its confidentiality and avoid leakages, the Commissioner-General will only share such excerpts of the said agreement with relevant officers in the event that their duties require them being privy to such information in the execution of such duties.”
GRA said that its position takes into consideration a number of factors, chief among them, the “sensitivity and confidentiality of the document and the level of caution that had to be imposed as a result of persistent breaches of the Secrecy Oath at the Authority.”
GRA continued, “The recent Kaieteur News article “GRA officials ‘sailing’ on EXXON contract” is the latest such breach of confidentiality and further evidence of the need to exercise such diligence.”
Kaieteur News was reliably informed that even senior operatives of GRA are at a loss when it comes to the contractual arrangement.
This newspaper reported that the situation leaves the tax authority facing a precarious situation. It is preparing to collect revenues from the looming oil industry, but has no idea of how the revenue will flow.
Key officials of GRA were recently embarrassed in a meeting the Authority had with ExxonMobil. The officials were essentially sailing. One officer said, “I couldn’t understand the purpose of the meeting, because most of us are not aware of what is going on.”
Employees are contending that Exxon is somehow being given the upper hand when the relevant professionals are not given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the document.
That employee continued, “If this trend continues, the boss will be forced to micromanage. He will have to give orders daily when the unit is step up.”
In ExxonMobil’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), the company lists GRA as a regulatory body.
Exxon said Guyanese will benefit, “through revenue sharing with the Government of Guyana, although the details of this revenue sharing is confidential. The type and extent of benefits associated with revenue sharing will depend on how decision makers in government decide to prioritize and allocate funding for future programs.”
It was also noted that a “confidential Petroleum Agreement between Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Hess, Nexen, and the Government of Guyana defines how revenues from the Project are to be shared between the parties. The Government of Guyana would begin receiving oil revenues when oil is produced.”
While GRA officials acknowledge that the “confidentiality” aspect of this can be understood, they are contending that “this is supposed to be Guyana’s most confidential agency, we deal with taxes. I think that they can even let employees sign specific confidentiality agreements. But the point is these officers need training, how are the men on the front line going to work if they do not know what they have to do? Dealing with revenue from Exxon is not like dealing the ordinary company, that is why a department has to be set up in the first place. Would the employees manning this department be left in the dark forever?”
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