By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The Government of Guyana has decided to adopt a phased approach towards full transparency in the oil sector; at least as it relates to contracts that have been signed with the various oil companies.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon conveyed the government’s decision at the most recent post-Cabinet press briefing.
Harmon was questioned why the government chose not to release all the oil contracts at once, especially the ones signed by the current administration. The Minister was pointed to the fact that release of those contracts signed by this government will help the government to demonstrate that it is indeed committed to transparency and will allow for comparisons to be made to old and new contracts.
However, the Minister said that Government thinks that if it releases all the contracts, the country will have too much information at its disposal at one time.
Harmon said, “There must be a time framework. We cannot release everything at one time. I suppose in the fullness of time those documents will be released. It is a question of what is convenient because sometimes you release everything and you just flood people with information that you almost suffer from information overload.
“But I believe you can understand that these contracts as the President and the Minister of Natural Resources said, they will be released eventually.”
President of the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc.,(TIGI) Dr. Troy Thomas is of the opinion that the level of scrutiny given to the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) that Guyana signed with ExxonMobil is indeed a major benefit to the nation.
The transparency advocate said that the benefits highlight the importance of transparency. “If the contract was not made public, no one would have been given the opportunity to scrutinise it.”
Dr. Thomas said that TIGI is proud of its unwavering advocacy for the contract to be made public and is happy that the government took heed.
“It took a long time (for the contract to be made public). The contract was already finalised by the time we got to see it. And there is still another appendix that needs to be published (the Bridging Deed) but at least it is out and that is important so it can be scrutinised, and locals are doing a fine job,” Dr. Thomas asserted.
Dr. Thomas said that TIGI would be happy if the Government can continue in the right direction of transparency and make all other contracts public. He said if others are made public, they too can be scrutinised.
In addition to ExxonMobil and its joint venture partners Hess and CNOOC Nexen, oil companies operating concessions in Guyana include; Canadian-based CGX Energy Inc., Repsol, Tullow Oil, Eco Atlantic, JHI Associates Inc. and Ratio Oil Exploration. Total also recently joined the local industry.
Initially, Government did not want to release the ExxonMobil contract. But it soon bowed to public pressure.
Dr. David Hinds, Dr Troy Thomas and Christopher Ram had all constantly advocated for the release of the contract that was inked between ExxonMobil and the APNU+AFC government.
They had expressed satisfaction when government finally decided to issue the contract.
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