The State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) will be placing much emphasis on tackling corruption in the oil and gas sector, says Special Assistant to the autonomous body, Eric Phillips.
Speaking with Kaieteur News recently, Phillips said that agency already has in-house resources dedicated to the cause, but efforts will be made to hire more professionals.
The SARA official said, “The State Asset Recovery Agency has been set up under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). With that as its base, the agency has three objectives: retain or recover stolen or misappropriated state assets, prevent corruption, and examine laws for gaps or loopholes that would allow for resources to be mismanaged.”
He added, “Since SARA is the legal anti-corruption body in Guyana and oil is our largest asset in years to come, then SARA must be involved in oil. It is a sector that is known for attracting corruption.”
Phillips said that for the time being, SARA has a chemical engineer, an investment banker, forensic auditors, who are focused on oil and gas. He said too that special accountants and auditors will also be sought out to examine technical issues in the sector.
For the time being, the State Asset Recovery Agency is investigating the award of two oil blocks to three inexperienced firms by former President, Donald Ramotar just days before the 2015 General and Regional Elections were held. It is also exploring the possibilities of licence revocation if corruption is proven by its probe.
On this issue, Phillips had told Kaieteur News, “We have to look at everything. We want to ensure we understand what happened, meet with the stakeholders involved, and if there were unlawful things at play, we have to figure out how we get them (the Canje and Kaieteur blocks) back.”
Phillips added, “We know one of them had an IPO (an Initial Public Offering, where shares of a company are sold to investors), which rose a year later to US$40M. So we have been quietly gathering information, speaking with Oil Consultant, Dr. Jan Mangal, and doing our own scanning…”
Just recently, Dr. Mangal took to his Facebook page to comment on the topical issue. The official reminded that he has been pursuing this matter since 2017.
He had said, “I recall telling ExxonMobil in one of my meetings with them that I believed they used Mid-Atlantic, Ratio, etc, as their proxies, to do their dirty work for them.”
The Oil Consultant believes that there is already sufficient evidence in the public domain for President David Granger to rescind the Kaieteur and Canje awards. He stressed, however, that going after officials is not the objective. The former Advisor to President Granger said that the objective is purely to earn Guyana the hundreds of millions and potentially billions of US dollars that were lost by these two awards.
Dr. Mangal had said that the blocks need to be taken back, split up into smaller blocks, and auctioned off properly. He added, “And all those who have had interests in these blocks must be banned from participating in any way in these blocks for the next 10 years (including ExxonMobil, Hess, etc).”
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