Oct 31, 2019 News
Former President and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, is of the view that contracts should be made public.
In fact, during a press conference yesterday at his Church street office, he said that if the PPP wins the upcoming General election, the newly installed Government would make non-disclosure of contracts a criminal offence.
At the time, the Opposition Leader was alluding to the secrecy surrounding contract disclosures by the current APNU/AFC Government, in the oil sector.
But during the tenure of the then President Jagdeo no contract could have been released. With Head of the Privatisation Unit, Winton Brassington, Jagdeo confronted requests with the term, “Confidentiality clauses”.
To this day, several contracts signed under the PPP Government – with Jagdeo at the helm – have not been released. These include but are not limited to the Marriott Hotel contract, the Sanata Complex contract, the Berbice Bridge contract, and the Bai Shan Lin contract.
When a Grenadian consortium visited Guyana to talk about the Marriott Hotel project and told the local media about the discussions, Jagdeo immediately terminated any further discussion.
There were also the contract to construct the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project, and the other for the road leading to the falls. This second contract was awarded to Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall.
The contract for the Cheddi Jagan Airport Expansion Project was never made public.
It is important to weigh Jagdeo’s promise against his record with contract non-disclosures, one government spokesperson said.
The Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) signed by former President Janet Jagan in 1999 to govern ExxonMobil’s operations on the Stabroek Block, had been revised in 2016 after ExxonMobil started discovering considerable commercial reserves of light crude in 2015. However, the revised agreement, like its predecessor, was kept secret.
Attorney-at-law, Christopher Ram had condemned Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, for not immediately revealing the PSA to the public, explaining that he had acted against Section 16(2) of the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, which requires the Minister to publish notice of the agreement in The Official Gazette as soon as is practicable after the licence is granted.
By failing to observe this aspect of the law, Ram had said that Trotman had set a worrying precedent.
It was President David Granger who, after much outcry from the general public, took the decision to release the contract over a year later.
The Government had also hid the $18M signing bonus it received from Exxon when the 2016 contract was signed. The President had later, when it was found out, indicated that he would take full responsibility for the secrecy surrounding the bonus.
In addition, the Petroleum Contract mentions the bridging deed, for which, the purpose is to replace the 1999 Agreement and the 1999 Petroleum Prospecting Licence for the Stabroek Block.
To this day – two days after the release of the PSA – the deed bridging the contracts has not been released to the public. Kaieteur News drew attention to this matter as late as September last, and no Government official has addressed the concern of the secrecy of this deed.
Local commentators have said that, by not releasing the bridging deed, Trotman is still in contravention of the Petroleum Act.
Last month, Activist Ramon Gaskin said that no contract, arrangement or deed should be confidential. He had also, in 2018, called for the release of this document, and had said that Government has lost all moral ground to criticize anyone about secrecy.
Jagdeo told reporters yesterday that his administration will ensure that all contracts are made public by law; that it will not wait for contracts to be revealed at the President’s discretion.
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