The troubles of 17,000 sugar workers and the declining health of the economy were not the only national issues that the political Opposition ventilated during a recent meeting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The parliamentary opposition reported almost every sordid detail of Government’s approach to the oil and gas sector. This is according to Opposition Member and Parliamentarian, Bishop Juan Edghill. He was part of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) team which met with the IMF.
In an exclusive interview, Edghill said, “There was discussion about oil. We shared our concern that the Dutch disease is here even before the oil arrives because you have seen the abandoning of various sectors. Sectors have been shrinking such as sugar and others have been neglected. Government’s hope is that oil answers everything.”
The former Junior Finance Minister continued, “The US$18M signing bonus scandal was also brought up and the lack of transparency that surrounded it. The pronouncements of the ministers regarding the scandal were also communicated to the IMF…”
The politician added, “We also told the IMF about our disappointment with the government as it relates to its nonchalant attitude on auctioning the remaining oil blocks.”
The Opposition team also complained about the government’s secrecy in the beginning; where it demonstrated no desire to release the Guyana-ExxonMobil 2016 contract.
Edghill said that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) team alerted the IMF that Guyana is just two years away from oil production; yet, there is no Sovereign Wealth Fund or a Petroleum Commission in place.
But the topic that took the most time with the IMF was the infamous US$460M pre-contract costs that Guyana must pay. The Opposition told the Fund that this money has not been audited.
Kaieteur News was able to confirm up to yesterday, that the Government has not made a single move to have the US$460M bill verified.
This newspaper also understands that several international organizations have advised Guyana’s authorities to ensure that it audits all bills submitted by oil companies.
Two of these international advisors include Chatham House and Publish What You Pay (PWYP).
Chatham House is an independent policy institute based in London. The entity helps its members to build sustainably secure economies through the efficient management of its natural resources.
Publish What You Pay is the world’s leading coalition of civil society organizations united in the call for a more transparent and accountable extractive sector. With more than 800 members, a global secretariat and 40 national coalitions that span the globe, PWYP has committed to working together to ensure that citizens have a say over whether their resources are extracted, how they are extracted and how their revenues are spent.
PWYP in a 2017 report for emerging oil producers cautioned that Guyana and others should not hesitate to conduct audits on bills submitted by oil companies.
The Canadian organization noted that in some cases, costs claimed by oil companies are simply ineligible. In extreme cases, which have occurred hundreds of times, false invoices are filed even when no work was actually done. The international organization said that Chile for example, was a major victim of false invoices by companies in the extractive sector.
Publish What You Pay also noted that more commonly, claims are made for costs that should be excluded, but are often not caught by the relevant authorities. It said that case study evidence demonstrates that this includes companies seeking to claim expenses that were incurred prior to the signing of the contract; were for the personal interests of expatriate employees and families; involved duplicate invoices for goods or services that have already been expensed; and which are clearly ineligible, such as costs related to mergers and acquisitions, or transfers in participating interests. The report said that oil companies have thoroughly abused Indonesia in this regard which led to that nation ultimately abandoning the use of Production Sharing Agreements and provisions for cost recovery.
Given the aforementioned, it noted that Guyana and other emerging countries should never hesitate to audit bills submitted.
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