Jul 10, 2019 News
The Opposition is calling for the Integrity Commission to act following recent news that at least two public officials, including an investigator, have interests and are directors in companies in the oil industry.
The two officials are Eric Phillips, Special Assistant of the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA); and Rawle Lucas, the current Chairman for the Guyana Power and Light Inc. and who would have also chaired the Guyana Revenue Authority.
Both are directors of ABR (African Business Roundtable) Oil and Gas Supplies and Logistics Services Inc.
Phillips’s interests in the company have raised eyebrows as he is charged with investigating how two offshore oil blocks were awarded in early 2015, shortly before the general elections.
Yesterday, Bishop Juan Edghill, a former Junior Finance Minister in the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which is now in the Opposition, made it clear that under the regulations, public officials must disclosed their assets and interests in companies.
This would hold true for the two men.
He said that the Integrity Commission Act requires every person in public light must declare their assets and liabilities.
“Assets as defined in the act, means all property, including any rights, or interest in property, and money held by the person in Guyana or elsewhere. So as part of the declaration of assets, requires that you declare your interests or the rights that you have in any property in Guyana or elsewhere.
This is meant to be done in a specified manner by the specified time determined by the act. So, whether you are a private citizen, and then you came into public light, you have 30 days to make declarations.”
Edghill said that back in 2015 Lucas might have been a private citizen.
“But now he has become someone in the public life because he is now the chairman of the GPL board. He has 30 days to file his declarations with the Integrity Commission.”
The former minister was highly critical in this Government disinterest in ensuring the Integrity Commission performs.
“This government non-performance in getting the Integrity Commission functioning, was not just an administrative slip, it could now be a deliberate attempt by this government to amass wealth, property and resources using state office.
These people think that because there was not an Integrity Commission they didn’t have to declare their assets. So we don’t know what they entered as a baseline, and that is the difficulty. If the baseline is not established, it will set the ground for corruption by all of these officials. This is a concern that we have been having for a long period.”
Edghill said that it is clear that people who are strategically placed in office are now the beneficiaries of property and lands.
“So, their integrity is under question. Second, the whole conflict of interest issue is now a concern, because how did they know that these opportunities existed? Were these things advertised?”
Edghill said that it is of great concern that there is a continuous “repetition” of a small group of names.
“Now, there is nothing wrong with the empowerment of Afro- Guyanese, and getting their business round table, but this is not an open company where shares should be traded publicly, and where any Afro-Guyanese can start buying into trade, but this is a select group.”
The PPP official questioned whether when the application was made for the oil block in 2015 that it was known to other Afro-Guyanese.
“So, we are using this Afro-Guyanese argument, not for the benefit of Afro-Guyanese, but just a small few. This is where the trouble exists…”
According to Edghill, he has read in Kaieteur News that corruption is not just when someone takes a bribe, but also uses the office or position for the acquisition of wealth and resources.
“I would use this chance to signal to the Integrity Commission that since these matters have become public, the Integrity Commission should be more proactive in checking to see that these public officials are up to date with declarations, and that these properties and assets, including the oil blocks and the establishing of a company, if their interests in these matters have been declared.”
Edghill said that the Integrity Commission must now say if Phillips and Lucas are up-to-date in their filings and if these are included in their filings.
ABR Oil and Gas Supplies and Logistics Services Inc. was incorporated on December 7, 2016.
Along with Phillips and Lucas, the other directors include Aisha Jean-Baptiste, a Geologist; Charles Ceres, an engineer; and Selwin George, a local businessman.
Phillips is the lead investigator on the award of two blocks by former President, Donald Ramotar, to three companies just before the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
The SARA official has continuously told members of the media that the probe of the Kaieteur and Canje blocks is necessary since the firms that got the licences– Ratio Guyana, Ratio Energy Limited, and Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas–have no track record or wherewithal to independently explore and develop the blocks.
However, there are other documents at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) which show that Phillips, who also has no track record in oil exploration, is one of the beneficial owners of a company called ABR Oil and Gas Exploration.
This company has applied for a licence to explore the block that is adjoining to Kaieteur and Canje.
With US-owned ExxonMobil operating and making a world-class find in the nearby Stabroek block, in excess of five billion barrels, the value of the nearby blocks have gone up in value.
Experts have said that countries around the world are careful about how it deals with adjoining properties when oil is discovered.
In this case, most countries have opted to go the auction route.
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