The Coalition Government, that had promised the highest levels of transparency and accountability, found itself in the proverbial pickle when the nation learned that an US$18M signing bonus was collected from ExxonMobil.
Nothing is wrong with the collection of a signing bonus; the error is the fact that the money was surreptitiously collected that caused concern.
After it became public that the government indeed collected the money, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, told Kaieteur News that the government has learnt a sad lesson. He said that effort will be made in the future to avoid such eventualities where the government may look like it attempted to engage in graft.
Trotman was then asked if he could have committed to telling the nation no more lies. He answered in the affirmative.
This newspaper also asked Trotman is he were willing to go as far as proposing to Cabinet that measures of transparency and accountability practised in oil sectors across the world be adopted by Guyana; he committed to that too.
Specifically, the Minister was pointed to measures taken by Ghana. Minister Trotman said that he had prior knowledge of the Ghana arrangement.
Ghana, a relative newcomer to the business, has strict accountability measures. Ghana’s government is required to get parliamentary approval for its oil contracts. Also, the government has included an anti-bribery provision in new Petroleum Agreements submitted to Parliament for approval.
Trotman said that he is willing to look at this model. “I believe going forward we will. We are learning. Ghana found oil in 2010 and the country is learning still. So, yes, sometimes your actions have to catch up with your intentions and I do believe that the more out is the better.
“Sometimes in the interest of the protection of the state some things need to be known to a few until later on. But the people have a right o know and later this month we will be inviting the opposition and stakeholders including some members of the press to have a look at the contract.”
Guyana is yet to see the production contract that the APNU+AFC government signed with ExxonMobil. Trotman had told Kaieteur News that he was working on the release of all contracts falling under his Ministry responsible for the extractive industry.
Trotman said that as is standard in the extractive industries, contacts of this nature have confidentiality clauses.
The government has been citing the confidentiality clause contained in the contracts as well as concerns for the nation’s sovereignty.
Subsequent to the announcement that the contract will be released, this newspaper inquired from Minister Trotman if the exploration contract that the government signed with UK firm, Tullow Oil, also has a confidentiality clause and if that contact will also be released to the public.
That is when the Minister indicated that he is looking to release all contracts for companies operating in the extractive industry (natural resources).
He said, “We have been speaking about sovereignty implication but the government has nothing to hide and so we are going to work out the timing and as much detail as we can to have the contract released.”
Trotman said, “Indeed all the contracts are of a similar nature. One of the operators has made a discovery but it is expected that others will as well, so we are going to engage them in terms of their position on Government’s desire to ensure transparency and accountability.”
Trotman, asked if he was of the opinion that the government was unfairly beaten up upon by those who were passionate about the non-release of the contract, responded in the negative. He said he understands the position of those who called for the release of the contract.
“Maybe I am wrong to say this but I understand that when you are dealing with valuable resources, there is a natural distrust for political elites; that they are up to mischief and corruption. Trotman was keen to note that the innate distrust is not unique to Guyana.
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