By Kiana Wilburg
“The public and the media have a right to know what is going on in the country. It is reasonable for taxpayers to want to know what the government of the day is doing in various sectors. It is even more reasonable for them to question how members within various sectors are operating and operated during a certain period…These things are not state secrets, so make (them) known.”
That is what Finance Minister Winston Jordan told Kaieteur News on May 25, 2016, on the issue of disclosing to the public, concessions and contracts, especially those in the extractive sector which were granted to companies and individuals.
One month after, June 19 to be exact, President David Granger told Kaieteur News that that he believes in full disclosure; that the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and the other branches of government should make concession agreements public.
But since making such a declaration, however, numerous natural resource contracts are yet to be released for public scrutiny, save and except for the few which have been signed with oil majors such as Repsol, CGX, Nabi Oil and Gas; Orinduik Partners: Tullow, Eco Atlantic, and Total; and Stabroek Block operators: Hess, CNOOC and Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL).
In a brief interview, Kaieteur News recently asked Minister Jordan to state why the government has not made a concerted effort to release all contracts and have all concessions published in the daily newspapers as the law requires.
He said, “I believe that the NPTAB (National Procurement and Tender Administration Board) routinely publishes awards made by this entity on the MoF (Ministry of Finance) website. Efforts are being made to have Ministerial, Regional and Agency Tender Boards do likewise, for awards made in 2019. I remain an advocate for all concessions to be published in the daily newspapers and the Gazette.”
Nonetheless, Revenue Watch, a non-profit policy institute that promotes the responsible management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good, has also called for there to be the practice of contract disclosure in Guyana and other emerging oil producers.
The grant-making organization has noted that Governments must be held accountable for all contracts they enter, be they for the provision of services or the purchase of goods. And when the contracts concern non-renewable resources, Revenue Watch said that the need for scrutiny is even more pressing. In this light, it said that the growing interest in mining, oil and gas contracts on the part of concerned citizens around the world makes a great deal of sense.
Given the history of government corruption and mismanagement of extractives, along with the environmental degradation, community displacement, violent conflict, and human rights abuses, Revenue Watch said it is no wonder that the calls for better government management of – and more corporate responsibility in – the extractive industries, have never been louder.
Revenue Watch argues that contract transparency is critical to addressing better resource management and bringing contract stability to an industry that is notorious for corruption.
It said, “Over the long term, Governments will be able to negotiate better deals, as the information asymmetry between governments and companies closes. In the shorter term, contract transparency will help government agencies responsible for managing and enforcing contracts, of which there are many, work in tandem. With contracts publicly available, government officials will have a strong incentive to stop negotiating bad deals, due to corruption, incompetence, or otherwise.”
Revenue Watch continued, “Citizens will better understand the complex nature of extractive agreements if they are out in the open and explained by the contract parties. States and companies may not be hiding anything of great import, but so long as contract disclosure is scattered and leaked materials suggest hidden horrors, that perception will persist—providing easy fodder for demagogues and politicians to make calls for expropriation and renegotiation in cases where it is not merited.”
The organization added, “Furthermore, contract transparency will result in more stable and durable contracts, both because they are less subject to the population’s suspicions and because the incentives for governments and companies to negotiate better contracts will be increased.”
In short, the organization said that contract transparency is a necessary element of any effort to promote the responsible management of natural resources for growth and economic development.
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