– As Audit Office gears to begin environmental audits
The Audit Office of Guyana is steadily improving to meet the growing need for accountability and transparency in Guyana. To this extent, Auditor General, Deodat Sharma has announced that he is gearing to begin carrying out environmental audits.
Sharma said that the office is aiming to look at “means of preserving our environment especially to protect our endangered sea turtle, birds and animals, as we enter the production of oil. As such we intend to carry out several environmental audits and this will be in compliance with the fourth ‘E’ of auditing. Sharma outlined the four ‘E’s of auditing to be economy, efficiency, effectiveness and environment.
He told Kaieteur News that the environmental audit is a type of performance audit. “It is a report on the environment and maybe if the gas and oil regulation is completed, we can examine it to see that there are provisions to protect our species.”
Sharma said that there will be great focus on provisions by companies for the prevention of oil spills “because that would be a huge issue.”
To carry out the task ahead, Sharma said that the Audit Office will not need more staffers but current staffers will definitely need more training.
He said that he has already started training staff members. Sharma disclosed that he sent six people to India under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme and they have been participating in the environmental auditing. “So they are aware of what is going on.”
Also, as the captain of the ship, Sharma said that he too is trained to do performance auditing, “so I am now forced to move towards, I have it in my horizon but I have to bring it forward now.”
The Auditor General said that while he is already preparing, he is aware that there is much to be done. Sharma said that that he cannot say as yet about all the details of what the audit will take on. However, he expecting to roll out the service early next year.
He said that performance audit takes a year and then the auditors will have to check back to see if the recommendations have been implemented.
Already, there has been noted that Guyana needs to place more emphasis on the protection of the environment.
ExxonMobil, in its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), claims that the possibility of an oil spill is not very high. However, it said that there is a 10 percent chance that in the event of a spill, oil will reach the coast of Guyana where 90 percent of its population sits.
ExxonMobil inferred that because of the purported ‘slim’ chance of an oil spill, detailed response measures are not needed. However, with a two percent possibility of occurring, the practice around the world is that oil companies are made to cater in detail for disasters. And indeed, the impact of an oil spill will be major for Guyana and its neighbours.
There is also nothing in the EIA that speaks to how Guyana’s neighbours will be compensated. What was clear is that ExxonMobil did not commit to bearing the legal or financial responsibility in the event of a disaster. There is a possibility that neighbouring countries, when environmental damage occurs, can move against Guyana. If the burden is left to bear by Guyana, the country may have to pay damages equivalent to years of oil revenues.
ExxonMobil’s EIA also offers no compensation to fishermen and other Guyanese who are most likely to be affected in the case of an oil spill.
The EIA has little or no information on the role to be played by relevant stakeholders as it pertains to consultations, training and quick response measures. In the event of an oil spill, there is no oversight mechanism in place to oversee the remedial action taken by the company.
The EIA noted that the light nature of the Liza field crude oil, and the region’s warm waters would help minimize the severity of a spill. “Accounting for these factors, the modeling indicates only a five to 10 percent probability of any oil reaching the Guyana coast.”
However, Exxon admitted that a spill at a Liza well would likely impact marine resources found near the well.
ExxonMobil has been known to be associated with some of the world’s most horrific oil spills. One such example is what happened in Alaska, United States.
In 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez slammed into a reef and spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil into the cold, clear waters of Alaska. Those waters, referred to as ‘Prince William Sound’ were deemed one of the “last best places” on Earth. The oil charged through Prince William Sound and out into the Gulf of Alaska. The damage spread more than 1,300 miles of some of the most remote, wild shorelines in America.
The amount of oil spilled can fill 125 Olympic size swimming pools. Four deaths were directly associated with clean up efforts.
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