By Kiana Wilburg
More than two years ago, the World Bank submitted clear recommendations to local stakeholders that data disclosure rules and regulations must be addressed if Guyana is to see a smooth transition into the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
In a report seen by this newspaper, the World Bank specifically stated that for Guyana to prepare its bid for EITI, the authorities should assess how current data is being disclosed and how the current rules/regulations will impact the country’s ability to meet the requirements set by the new EITI Standard.
The World Bank said that there are important limitations in the existing information available, including statement of revenues collected from Guyana Revenue Authority and its powers to release these, and disaggregated revenue data by licensees (mining companies) as collected by the Guyana Gold Board and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
The nation is expected to submit its first report to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in April 2019. While officials of the local chapter have already initiated the process to prepare the document, it is only now reporting that it is facing some difficulties, the same difficulties it was urged to fix by the World Bank.
According to Dr. Rudy Jadoopat, head of the GY-EITI, the nation’s rigid tax laws are preventing some government agencies from submitting crucial data needed to prepare the report.
During his interview with this publication a few weeks ago, Dr. Jadoopat had said, “Guyana’s report is expected to help promote open and accountable management of our natural resources. It is expected to contain information from companies on payments they make to the government that is then reconciled with data from the government which says how much they claim to have received from the said companies.
“It is in this vein that we have had several engagements with government agencies. These include the Bureau of Statistics, Bank of Guyana, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Insurance Scheme.”
But Dr. Jadoopat had said that not all the government agencies have submitted all the information needed. He said that this is the case with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The official had said, “There are some obstacles which have been cited by the GRA which is that the law does not allow them to provide taxpayers names to us and their TIN and all of that. So that is an issue we have to deal with.”
Dr. Jadoopat noted however that there are other jurisdictions which were able to overcome such issues. In this regard, the official pointed to Trinidad and Tobago.
He had said, “The Income Tax Act and the Revenue Act of Guyana provides for how this information can be made available and what are the exceptions. This information is needed to support the first report which is due in April 2019…
“If you don’t know the names of the players who pay the government then we cannot do our reconciliation…So this is where we are right now. Hopefully the government can provide a waiver to the GRA to help this situation.”
Dr. Jadoopat had said that the government committed to the EITI process and there should be no barrier in ensuring Guyana complies with the standard of the global body. He added, “If Government’s commitment is to be seen as real then it has to ensure that its agencies provide data for the report…”
GUYANA/ EITI HISTORY
EITI is an international body that was established in 2003 with the aim of making it harder for governments and companies to hide the truth about the proceeds garnered from the extractive industries.
The companies in the extractive sector report on what they are paying the government, and the government reports separately on what it received from the companies in the sector.
A report is then prepared by a Multi-Stakeholder Group. The document, among other things, will highlight whether the numbers data collected from the two add up, or if there is an irregularity.
Dr. Jadoopat explained that Guyana must be praised for its efforts in recent years, which were all geared towards satisfying the EITI candidate sign-up requirements.
The official noted that the Government of Guyana had announced its commitment to implement the EITI Standards since May 2010. He said that Guyana and EITI even signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012, which paved the way for Guyana to be assisted with its preparation of EITI candidacy.
He said that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and the Carter Center provided assistance to the Government and supported its efforts towards EITI candidacy. Dr. Jadoopat said it is expected that this will continue.
He added that the government, as stipulated in the International EITI Standard 1.4, has committed to working with Civil Society and Companies.
“It has unequivocally and boldly announced its commitment to work with civil society and companies. Also, the government has agreed to ensure that there are no obstacles to civil society participation in the EITI processes. It agreed to refrain from actions which may result in narrowing of, or restricting of public debate in relation to the EITI implementation.”
Dr. Jadoopat also took the opportunity to encourage all to consider it their civilian duty to actively participate in the activities and work of the Guyana-EITI.
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