Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams, has been able to defy the ExxonMobil –Guyana deal which requires seven days notice before visits for inspection could be made to the American company’s offshore operations.
In the environmental permits that the oil giant would need, Dr. Adams included a provision which allows his officials, the ability to visit the company’s Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels without prior notice.
While he has been able to secure this, the EPA Head said that the lack of resources does constrain the agency from making full use of that provision. But the official was quick to note that this is only for the time being.
The EPA Head said, “I have always said that oversight bodies should not have to provide notice. We should be able to visit at anytime. It is not practical for us to do so now due to the lack of resources but that would not be our permanent state of affairs. I was adamant however that it needs to be in the permit as a matter of principle.”
Until the EPA gets a boost of resources, it will have to rely on ExxonMobil to provide transportation to its operations.
ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
According to Global Witness, Governments and their respective auditing officers must have the power to make “unannounced” visits to inspect the operations as well as the records of oil companies. The international body that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, corruption, and human rights abuses, said it is only then one can truly ensure companies are in compliance with the required standards of transparency and accountability.
The Global Witness made the said call during a review of just two of the Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) between the Government of Uganda and Tullow Oil; Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation and French oil major, Total S. A.
During its assessment, the Global Witness found that prior to 2008, the PSAs of the agreements between those entities and the Government of Uganda, contained strict rules regarding powers to inspect.
The Global Witness noted that based on the provisions of the PSAs, the government was allowed to enter the contract area ‘at all reasonable times’ to witness operations, test equipment used to measure production and inspect assets, records and data.
However, the Government must give at least ‘30 days’ notice to the company ahead of any inspection. The Global Witness said that these provisions obstruct public authorities from making unannounced visits at any time to inspect the assets or observe petroleum operations.
The anticorruption body further noted that inspection covers a range of key areas for the oil sector: from financial concerns through to health and safety requirements, and environmental compliance. In all of these areas, the Global Witness said that “effective inspection may well require an element of surprise to prevent crucial facts from being concealed.”
It subsequently recommended that future contracts, including the model PSA, should allow the Government to pay surprise visits to all petroleum facilities. It said too that inspection reports should also be made public.
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