Jan 01, 2019 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Oil and Gas consultant, Dr. Jan Mangal, is of the firm conviction that the failure to hold public officials accountable for corruption only spells bad news for Guyana’s burgeoning oil and gas
Dr. Mangal insisted that Guyana would not benefit from the petroleum sector if corruption is not frontally addressed.
Dr. Mangal said that corruption is why the development of oil and gas fails to have a positive impact in many countries. He asserted that it is one of the main factors that drive suboptimal outcomes in the oil and gas industry as such, it is important for Guyana to pay attention to corruption.
Dr. Mangal said, “Look at how some oil blocks were awarded just prior to the last general election in 2015. Numerous blocks were awarded around the Stabroek Block just prior to Exxon drilling its discovery well in 2015 and these awards are highly suspicious. Countries usually wait for the wild cat well to see if it is positive or negative before they award the blocks around it.”
The former Petroleum Advisor to Government continued, “But it was in Exxon’s interest to get the other blocks removed from the market place for peanuts prior to them drilling and announcing their discovery in the Stabroek Block.
“However, it is in the country’s interest to hold onto the blocks around the Stabroek Block because Guyana can demand more for the adjacent blocks after oil is found in the Stabroek Block. Guyana lost billions of US dollars by these awards.”
He added, “So these awards by the last government are highly suspicious. I believe anticorruption should be a major focus for oil in Guyana. We cannot build this new industry on a weak shabby foundation.
“We have to root out corruption from the oil and gas industry so Guyana can move forward on a solid foundation, so Guyana has a chance to benefit from its oil, and so Guyana can finally develop in a manner that benefits all Guyanese.”
COURTS HOLDING OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE
Dr. Mangal also addressed whether there is any evidence that the government is dealing with corruption properly. The Oil and Gas Consultant reminded that anticorruption was one of the coalition’s biggest items in its manifesto but the nation is not seeing any convictions.
Dr. Mangal opined that citizens are quite frustrated and worried as to why they aren’t any convictions. He said, “And this is troubling because it could be that the system for investigating and prosecuting corruption does not work. It might be corrupted itself. So if the courts and the system cannot hold officials to account, then that is a very bad sign for oil and gas.”
THE WAY FORWARD
If the government wants to salvage its reputation when it comes to the anticorruption fight, then Dr. Mangal asserts that it must do things differently going forward. Dr. Mangal said what the government needs to do to prove that it is serious about anticorruption, is make officials accountable for their actions, and make itself completely transparent.
Dr. Mangal said, “Both PPP and coalition officials need to be made accountable for their actions. If we can’t rely on the local institutions then we should bring in people from outside to help with these cases. And the government is doing a bit of this. But the government does not have the expertise to understand how corruption occurs in the oil sector.”
The Oil and Gas Consultant said that Guyana needs assistance from international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that focus on corruption in oil and gas. He said that Guyana needs to work with these NGOs and give them access. In this regard, Dr. Mangal opined that an NGO like the Global Witness has tackled and uncovered corruption amounting to many billions of US dollars around the world.
“But is the government likely to do these things? I doubt it. As I said to the students at the University of Guyana concerning the unfair oil contract with Exxon, ‘Things will only change in Guyana when the people start becoming active and start demanding change. Change can only come from the bottom, not the top,” Dr. Mangal concluded.
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