…critics fear the same may occur in Guyana
The friends and families connected to the Government of Equatorial Guinea live lifestyles fit for kings and queens.
These “selected” individuals can happily enjoy their riches today, much to the credit of USA oil giant ExxonMobil.
But a damning investigation later revealed that the source of their wealth was due to the fact that ExxonMobil was funneling millions of dollars into a private account belonging to the Government. And that is not all. ExxonMobil was also granting contracts to the friends and family members connected to the Government of Equatorial Guinea.
Several anti-corruption advocates fear that the same may take place in Guyana.
One such instance that has fueled this fear surrounds that of the Mangal brothers.
The advisor to the Government on oil and gas is Dr. Jan Mangal. But just a few weeks ago, his brother, Lars Mangal, won a bid for his company to construct an onshore facility for ExxonMobil.
The Government is insisting, however, that there is no conflict of interest or favouritism in this regard.
Be that as it may, the actions of ExxonMobil in Equatorial Guinea expose the extent to which oil companies can actually engage in various forms of favouritism, conflict of interest and corruption.
These activities are allowed to take place especially when countries have weak Local Content Policies.
A Local Content Policy ensures added value is brought to a nation through workforce development. This can take the form of employment and training of locals by the foreign oil company. The Policy also ensures that there are investments in supplier development, such as ensuring that the foreign oil company uses supplies and services which are provided locally.
In the case of Equatorial Guinea, ExxonMobil did engage in employing and training locals. The oil giant also procured services and products from the host country. But in almost every instance, ExxonMobil’s actions all had one strange thing in common; almost every local person or service used had strong ties to the Government of Equatorial Guinea.
This was exposed during an investigation that was led by the American Senate Subcommittee.
Among the reasons for the hearing was that in 2004, the subcommittee identified a bank in Washington where ExxonMobil and other oil companies deposited millions of dollars owed to Equatorial Guinea for operating there. The money went to the family of the President of Equatorial Guinea, the subcommittee found.
This occurred during the time Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil. He is now the USA Secretary of State.
At one of the hearings held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson was grilled by Senator Jeff Merkley.
Tillerson was questioned on the fact that there were a number of contracts that ExxonMobil did with companies which had strong ties to the friends and family members of the Government of Equatorial Guinea. Merkley said that this included building leases and land leases and a series of other contracts. He added that the net effect was the transfer of more riches to the Government of Equatorial Guinea.
Merkley pointed out that ExxonMobil’s actions raised this moral question: How could this company be engaging Equatorial Guinea in such a manner, that it was essentially enriching the leaders, without little thought of how this was going to impact the people there?
Merkley also pointed out that the unfavourable state of Equatorial Guinea is even reported on by the US State Department.
Tillerson said that while he is aware of the circumstances spoken of by the Senator, he merely maintained that during his time, there were no violations.
Even as Kaieteur News and media outlets around the world continue to expose the nature of ExxonMobil and how it treats with oil wealthy nations, two of this country’s most prominent leaders seem unfazed about these revelations.
Former President and now Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, for example, has stated that he is not “too” concerned about the worrying track record ExxonMobil has in some parts of the world.
President David Granger is of the view that a company like ExxonMobil would not risk getting into backdoor deals, as it would risk hurting its corporate reputation.
The Head of State has also said, “For a corporation the size of Exxon, it would not do itself any good to have deals or negotiations which are subject to public scrutiny, international scrutiny which are regarded as unfair, because it will damage its corporate reputation.”
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