By Kiana Wilburg
Even though the government has expressed the intention to release all contracts in the extractive industries, Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman recently revealed that this would not be possible as some companies are opposed to this. He said, too, that all the contracts contain confidentially clauses, as such, the companies’ permission must be provided before the said deals are released. Trotman noted that only the oil companies have given approval in this regard.
But Oil and Gas Consultant and former Advisor to the Government, Dr. Jan Mangal is not buying Trotman’s explanation. On his social media platform yesterday, Dr. Mangal said that it is “disingenuous” for the government to say it cannot publish all the contracts because the companies do not agree.
The Oil Consultant said, “ExxonMobil and the other oil companies did not want their contracts released, but President (David) Granger took the decision himself to release these contracts. If President Granger listened to his Ministers, these contracts would never be released.”
Dr. Mangal continued, “The government is not releasing these contracts (gold, diamonds, timber, sand, rock, etc) to the people because some in government (on both sides of the aisle) are more interested in generating fraudulent income for themselves and their sponsors in the private sector, and thereby defrauding the people of Guyana.”
The former Government advisor added that contract secrecy never benefits the people of the country. He emphasized that secrecy only benefits corrupt officials and business people.
He said, “Guyana is on a journey to a better place, and open/ transparent government is an essential building block. We cannot move Guyana forward without open government.”
On Wednesday as well, Minister Trotman had said that when the APNU+AFC took over, it found that some contracts were negotiated by the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) and some by the Ministry of Finance. “So there is no one repository of all of them. Some of them have gone missing…So it is not as easy as with oil and gas (contracts) because all of those were with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) …”
In response to this, Dr. Mangal said it is quite astounding that the Ministry of Natural Resources claims it does not have access to some of the timber/ mineral contracts. He said that if the people’s resources are being taken without any contractual agreement, then the extraction should be halted until contracts are in place and published.
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 roads 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.
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