Sep 11, 2017 News
– TIGI Head
The Government’s overall behaviour regarding the oil and gas sector is shrouded in secrecy. Its lack of transparency is ultimately creating a dangerous situation in Guyana. This essentially sums up the concerns of Dr. Troy Thomas who heads Transparency Institute Guyana Incorporated (TIGI).
In an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News, Dr. Thomas stated that he does not believe that the government is approaching USA oil giant, Exxon Mobil in a way that inspires confidence. The TIGI Head asserted that his conclusion in this regard is rooted in the fact that the government has clothed everything in secrecy. He stressed that this is very disappointing.
“In effect, you don’t have basic information. That contract is with the people of Guyana. It is not a contract with a few ministers so why it is not being officially released by the government? What is the issue? They have said many things over time (for not releasing the contract like) security, and what’s not and I think we dealt with those. I don’t think they have any real reason for not releasing the contract (with Exxon Mobil) or any legitimate reason that we can think of,” expressed Dr. Thomas.
“And therefore, it means we got to question why not release the contract; what is it about it that is causing you to not do it. If you release the contract people can scrutinize it and say what they think about it…That kind of scrutiny should take things to a higher level. It is going to demand greater accountability of the government because people are looking and criticizing and so the only thing I can think of is that they don’t want that to happen. Why would you not want the Guyanese people to know about this thing that is so important to them? That is beyond me. I can’t understand that.”
At the same time, Dr. Thomas said that the politicians have been continuously singing the tune that with the coming of oil, Guyana is going to be rich. He said the view that is now developing too is that Guyanese “should wait for oil.” The TIGI Head noted however that there are so many examples out there where countries have produced oil and the citizens are no better off. He said that it is important for Guyana to guard against those things.
The University Lecturer noted, however, that if Guyanese are unable to get access to certain basic information, then it essentially puts them at a disadvantage in being able to ensure a certain level of accountability and transparency.
“How do we even know the government has our best interest at heart? Should we just take them at their word? Guyana is a very corrupt society. We know that. I don’t think that that has changed overnight…They are asking us to take them at their word and that is not good enough…we are dealing with politicians here…”
Dr. Thomas even suggested that the time may be opportune for legal action to be taken so that it can be clear whether the Government followed all procedures. He insisted that overall, Guyanese have to become more vigilant.
Chartered Accountant and anticorruption advocate, Chris Ram also weighed in on the issue for more transparency on oil and gas matters. In his recent writings, Ram stressed that it is important that governments, civil society and individuals are ever vigilant about the conduct of oil companies.
He noted that oil companies do in fact have a pretty bad reputation for dealing with national governments; a reputation that is not entirely undeserved.
Ram articulated that those companies know however that there is a section of the media which is not unwilling to speak out against them. He noted too that these companies also have a stock market to contend with as well as investors who are not averse to pulling their investments when oil companies act dishonourably.
Furthermore, as it relates to disclosure of the oil contract, Ram believes that this is absolutely necessary.
He said, “How can we monitor the parties to the agreement if we do not have copies of those agreements? As far as I know, only one political party, a member of the Coalition, has called for the petroleum agreements to be made public. It needs to do more. We cannot let the government believe that this is acceptable. It is not, not by any stretch.”
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