Former Speaker of the House and Attorney-at-Law, Ralph Ramkarran, recently said that there is no provision in the Petroleum Commission Bill which allows for the transfer of funds to the Consolidated Fund.
He made these comments on Wednesday at Duke Lodge in Kingston where the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a consultation on oil and gas development and the Petroleum Commission Bill.
The Petroleum Commission Bill makes mention of the Consolidated Fund in several instances.
According to the Bill, the power of the Minister to give directions to the Commission shall include, but not be limited to, giving to the Commission directions as to; (a) the disposal of capital assets; and (b) the application of the proceeds of the disposals.
It goes on to state, “Any direction given under subsection (6) may require the whole or any part of the revenues of the Commission to be paid into the Consolidated Fund.”
The Bill further states that the Commissioner shall ensure that, “any and all revenue received on behalf of the Government being in the form of royalties, surface rentals, signature bonuses, proceeds from sale of Government share of production, and any other tax payable to Government is paid into the Consolidated Fund as directed by the Minister.”
The Bill also speaks to how the Reserve Fund of the Petroleum Commission can be covered by the Consolidated Fund.
It says, “If the reserve fund is in any year insufficient to cover any net loss of the Commission recorded in its Profit and Loss Account, an amount equivalent to the deficiency shall be charged on the Consolidated fund: Provided that if in any succeeding year any net surplus accrues to the Commission there shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund by the Commission from time to time, such sum as may be agreed with the Minister responsible for finance together with interest on it at the rate to be determined by him until the amount is fully repaid.”
But Ramkarran seemed unaware of these clauses. He insisted that there was no provision for the transfer of the oil funds to the Consolidated Fund.
Ramkarran said, “There was a big debate during the last government as to the necessity for Commissions to pay their funds into the Consolidated Fund. And that occurred in relation to NICIL which was a limited liability company which had special provisions as to how it would deal with its funds.”
The columnist continued, “And this clashed with state agencies. But many Commissions, in fact all the Commissions…the large ones (such) as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), they don’t pay their funds into the Consolidated Fund.”
The attorney added, “That doesn’t mean that such a provision is not desirable. For example, it is desirable for the (draft) legislation to contain a provision (which says) that funds not utilized for the management of the Commission itself ought to be paid into the Consolidated Fund…”
Ramkarran said that this doesn’t seem to be the case now, even though the parties which comprise the Government held very strong positions on this very issue prior to the 2015 elections.
He said, “And they seem to not want to follow that same position in this instance. That of course is quite normal in countries like Guyana…”
The truth is far from this doomsday comment.
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