– Shows Govt. not acting in country’s best interest – Ramson Jnr.
By Kiana Wilburg
International best practice guidelines on Local Content policies from agencies such as the World Bank, all underscore the importance of transparency. In light of this, none of these guidelines promote the use of confidentiality provisions. Yet, Guyana’s Local Content Policy which was completed by UK Consultant, Dr. Michael Warner, contains such clauses.
The first two drafts of Guyana’s policy which was done by Trinidadian Local Content Expert, Anthony Paul, never contained those provisions. It was only after the Department of Energy hired Dr. Warner—who has ties to ExxonMobil—that the confidentiality provisions were inserted.
Upon noting that the provisions made its way into the final document, Attorney-at-law, Charles Ramson during an interview with this newspaper yesterday, said that the move clearly undermines openness while demonstrating that the government clearly isn’t acting in Guyana’s best interest.
Ramson, who holds a Master’s Degree in Oil and Gas Enterprise Management from the University of Aberdeen, firmly asserted that confidentiality provisions in the policy would be damaging to the development of local talent and careers in the industry.
The lawyer said, “When there is openness in the disclosure of the local content information, citizens would be able to better position themselves for opportunities in the industry. Furthermore, only propriety information should ever be confidential and information related to local content could never be proprietary.”
Ramson said therefore that the inclusion of confidentiality provisions in the policy shows that the government is not acting in the best interest of the country. He stressed that information makes markets function effectively and therefore, confidentiality clauses would only be harmful to the process.
Kaieteur News would have also observed in Appendix G of the Local Content Policy that reference was made to several Local Content Policies that were used as source documents. The policies came from Tanzania, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. Interestingly, none of those policies or their local content laws, which were scrutinised by Kaieteur News, had any clause about confidentiality.
Appendix G of Guyana’s completed policy also said that reference was made to the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association’s (IPIECA) Local Content Guidance Document for the oil and gas industry. Again, this document, which was reported on extensively in the past, and perused yesterday by this publication, does not promote the use of confidentiality provisions.
In fact, no part of the policy explicitly explains why such provisions were necessary and what international best practice they abide by.
The provision in the policy simply states that “legal constraints” prevent the disclosure of submitted and reported information on local content to parties beyond the Minister. According to the policy, the Minister shall disclose the anticipated contracting and procurement opportunities for Guyanese suppliers in the form of completed tables in an Operator’s Local Content Plan. Information would also be pulled from the operator’s half-year and end-of-year reports.
The Minister on an annual basis would also be allowed to disclose a “summary” of the operator’s Local Content Utilisation Report. The policy notes that the operator is expected to include additional commentary on its disclosures such as an explanation of inconsistencies between anticipated levels of local content and actual performance.
Further to this, the Local Content Committee alone would have the authority to view “in confidence” the approved Operators’ plans for the sole purpose of carrying out its function of policy oversight.
In all other cases, “information submitted to the Minister in Operator’s Local Content Plans and appendices and half-year and end-of-year Local Content Reports, shall remain confidential to the Operator and Ministry.”
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