Guyana has finally become a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). This is a body that calls for accountability in the natural resources sector.
With that salient point in mind, Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-Law, Chris Ram believes that a serious conflict arises when one takes into account the Government’s secretive behaviour in recent months, particularly as it relates to the oil and gas sector.
The lawyer said, “It is difficult to reconcile openness with the refusal to provide the country, the National Assembly or the individual Coalition Partners, with any information on the Petroleum Agreement signed by Minister Trotman in August 2016.”
Amidst calls for the release of the oil contract with ExxonMobil, the Government has been proffering the excuse that confidentiality clauses inhibit its release.
Ram, like many other concerned individuals, made it clear that it is important for one to bear in mind that the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) under which oil companies are granted licences for the exploration and development of petroleum, indeed, imposes confidentiality obligations.
He however noted that this is only with respect to “petroleum data, information and reports obtained or prepared by the oil companies”.
Ram said that any statement to the contrary is not only misleading but false.
He added that the principle of transparency and the overriding public interest in such contracts has even caused a number of such contracts to be made available, both at the national and international levels.
In this regard, Ram noted that the University of Dundee, Scotland; Revenue Watch Institute, an Non-Governmental Organization; the World Bank, among others, are facilitating the process by collecting and disseminating them in searchable databases on the internet.
Additionally, Ram stated, “Neither law, logic nor the public interest requires or favours the continuing withholding of the oil contracts signed by the Government of Guyana ostensibly acting on behalf of the people of the country.”
Kaieteur News even carried an article which reveals that over 50 countries around the world make their contracts open for scrutiny.
This was exposed by the website, Openoil.net. These contracts are also available for download on that website. Openoil has one of the world’s first comprehensive archive lists of oil contracts. These are pulled from states such as Mexico, Angola, Chad, Guatemala, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Syria, and Ukraine.
US oil giant, ExxonMobil has operations in all of the mentioned countries in which disclosure of contracts is practiced.
Officials, who support the Openoil webpage, categorically believe that all contracts which govern publicly- owned natural resources and the livelihoods of people, should be placed into the open for all to access and examine. This view, however, rational or honourable, is not held by all of Guyana’s policy leaders.
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