Sep 01, 2017 News
Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram sought to clear the air, recently, regarding an aspect of the
Petroleum Exploration and Production Act. It was being peddled by some government officials that Section Four of that Act which speaks to the nondisclosure of oil contracts was actually inserted by the PPP when the law was amended in 1997. Ram however noted that nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the attorney-at-law, that aspect of the law existed prior to the PPP’s amendments in 1997.
In his recent writings on his blog, www.chrisram.net, the tax analyst said, “There appears to be some confusion about the source of Section Four and I have heard it said, and repeated by a number of persons, that the Section derives its origin from a PPP/C amendment in 1997. That is not so. That section existed in its entirety in the original (1986) Act. All that was done in 1997 was to increase the penalty in subsection (4) from $25,000 to $75,000 by way of the Law Revision (Amendment) Act # 6 of 1997.”
Section 4 of the Act says, “4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), no information furnished, or information in a report submitted, pursuant to this Act by a licensee shall be disclosed to any person who is not a Minister, a public officer or an employee of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission except with the consent of the licensee.
(3) Where a licensee is a party to a petroleum agreement the right of the licensee, his servants or agents to disclose information about prospecting or production operations under the licence shall be subject to any restrictions or limitations in that respect specified in the agreement.
(4) Any person who discloses information in contravention of this section shall, on summary conviction, be liable to a fine of seventy-five thousand dollars and imprisonment for three years.”
Additionally, Ram recalled that there had been further comments on this matter in the media.
In one section of the media, the Chartered Accountant said that Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman made it clear that Government received expert advice which did not favour publication of oil contracts at this time. The Minister even described the Act as “somewhat ambiguous” and said that it should be interpreted in a manner that prevents publication of oil contracts.
But Ram maintains that, “There is no ambiguity… and any reluctance to publish has to be planted on a firmer basis than anonymous expert opinions”.
Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI) has been calling for the release of the Exxon Mobil Contract for months now. The body noted however that the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act – Cap 65:10 seems to provide a built-in secrecy clause.
TIGI also expressed concerned about the very existence of this confidentiality clause and wants to know whether it can expect to see it removed in the revised act which is due shortly.
Furthermore, considering that contract secrecy can be injurious to countries rich with natural resources such as oil, TIGI is urging the Government to publish all contract drafts with ExxonMobil.
The body is also calling for Parliament to be able to shine a light of transparency on all negotiations between Guyana and the said company.
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