Jul 28, 2018 News
Parliaments have two important roles in improving the management of natural resource revenues. One of them involves overseeing revenue management systems to improve compliance with the rules and government performance. According to the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), the Parliaments of emerging oil producers like Guyana can do this in a number of ways.
Specifically, NRGI said that Opposition Parliamentarians can insist that annual budget decisions be linked to a medium- and long-term national development plan and, if such plan is in place, oversee compliance with set objectives. NRGI said that Parliamentarians can monitor annual budgets closely to ensure that implementation is in line with a long-term revenue management strategy or with revenue management legislation.
It said that Parliamentarians can also introduce legislation creating or modifying a natural resource fund and revenue sharing regime, as long as sound fiscal management and forecasting, and institutional capacity are already in place.
The revered institute said that policy leaders can exercise powers to monitor the cost, quality and speed of delivery of large infrastructure projects. NRGI stressed in this regard, that when projects are poorly constructed or managed, contractors should be sanctioned or replaced.
It said, too, that Parliamentarians can endeavour to produce a committee report that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the revenue management system, large infrastructure project cycle and/or economic diversification strategy.
Further, NRGI called for there to be sanctioning of officials who act unethically or disregard the public interest. It also called for Guyana’s politicians to reach out to parliamentarians from other countries that share similar challenges to learn how they addressed issues facing emerging oil producers.
Guyana’s looming oil wealth will call for a greater level of transparency and accountability. With this understanding in mind, several Opposition Members of Parliament (MP) are expected to participate in an upcoming Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) project that will sharpen their interrogation skills.
This was revealed by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, at his weekly press conference.
The former Finance Minister said, “I had an engagement with a team from CDB. They want to do a project to improve the skills of MPs to interrogate public expenditure and I said I support it and our MPs will attend.
“What I told them however is that if the goal is greater transparency, then it is not so much the lack of training that leads to less accountability. There are other factors. The House Speaker (Dr. Barton Scotland) for one, needs to be trained to understand public expenditures, linkages and (the need to) give (MPs) enough time for interrogation.”
The former President also bemoaned the fact that Ministers provide “short” responses on questions, which require detailed answers. Overall, he agreed that the National Assembly needs to ramp up its resources so that there can be enough scrutiny on the expenditure of the nation‘s oil moneys.
The legislature of any country would have a pivotal oversight role in the oil and gas industry. But Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds, does not believe that Guyana’s Parliament is prepared for the task that lies ahead.
In fact, when it comes to the rigid transparency and accountability that would be needed for the oil wealth to come, Dr. Hinds noted that the legislature may be woefully unprepared.
He said it is not a role that the legislature is accustomed to playing, since legislators tend to be very partisan. He said that usually, it is the Opposition legislators who do the real oversight work.
The WPA Executive Member said that governing party legislators tend to be less probing of executive officials. For there to be effective bipartisan oversight, Dr. Hinds said that there will have to be a culture shift among legislators.
He said, “And I don’t see that happening in the short run. Political tribalism is too entrenched in our political culture. The extent to which the legislature would hold the executive to high levels of accountability would depend largely on the sharpness of the Opposition.
“But we also have to be careful that the Opposition legislators don’t go overboard and use their oversight to score partisan political points.”
Dr. Hinds said that he does not believe that the legislature has access to sufficient information to adequately monitor decisions, negotiations, payments and revenue movements related to the extractive resources.
“At the moment, I don’t think legislators have access to sufficient information largely due to the culture of secrecy that the executive has developed in relation to these matters. Accountable government is not part of our overall governance culture.
“Because the National Assembly has never asserted its oversight role in a bi-partisan manner, the executive branch gets away with a lot of unaccountability.”
The University Professor said that he is not confident in the frequency, depth, and impact of the legislature’s monitoring of the embryonic oil and gas industry.
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