By Kiana Wilburg
Even though the World Bank was gracious enough to provide Guyana with a US$20M loan to develop its capacity for the oil sector, it is by no means, any reason for one to “blindly assume” that this financial institution places the interests of the nation over the companies that would be competing for contracts funded via the loan.
Making this statement recently was Petroleum Consultant and former Presidential Advisor, Dr. Jan Mangal. His comments were premised on several articles Kaieteur News published in the past few days on the violation of the World Bank’s rules on procurement and conflict of interest.
In this regard, it was reported that German Human Rights Organization, Urgewald, wrote to the Directors of the World Bank and appealed for an immediate investigation to be done, since two ExxonMobil affiliates won contracts that would allow them to shape crucial policies and laws which would be used to regulate ExxonMobil and other oil companies.
Upon taking note of this, Dr. Mangal in an invited comment said, “I agree with the concern raised in the articles…We cannot blindly assume the World Bank has our interests over those of ExxonMobil, or vice versa. We have to do the vetting and procurement audits ourselves. We have to be cautious of any firm with ties to oil companies. We cannot rule them out, but we have to be extra vigilant.”
Kaieteur News would have reported on numerous occasions that Warner is the same contractor who was hired and paid by ExxonMobil to run the oil giant’s Local Content Centre for Development on South Road, Georgetown for several months.
Yet, he was given the go-ahead over Trinidadian Local Content Expert and Energy Strategist, Anthony Paul.
In the first two drafts, Paul had prepared on the policy, he ensured there were several provisions in place to give Guyanese the upper hand in the industry. Those provisions were subsequently removed when Warner took over.
Commenting on this situation, Dr. Mangal said, “Mr Paul is a Local Content Expert, but Mr Warner was hired instead, and we know the policy produced by Mr Warner was widely criticized by Guyanese.” He further stated that this leaves one to question whether Paul was replaced by Mr Warner because he was too pro-Guyana.
But that case of ExxonMobil-linked contractors being used to play a critical role in Guyana’s budding oil industry is not the first or the second. Dr. Mangal reminded of instances where the Energy Department allowed a UK-based firm, Bayphase Oil and Gas Consultants, to review the Field Development Plans (FDPs) of its client, ExxonMobil.
Taking this into consideration, Dr. Mangal insisted that Guyana needs to hire firms which have proven track records of looking out for the interests of countries, as opposed to the interests of oil companies. Even if these firms are hired, he categorically stated that the authorities of the day have to go above and beyond the usual procurement process to ensure these firms will work towards Guyana’s interests.
“I agree with the concern raised in the articles…We cannot blindly assume the World Bank has our interests over those of ExxonMobil, or vice versa. We have to do the vetting and procurement audits ourselves. We have to be cautious of any firm with ties to oil companies. We cannot rule them out, but we have to be extra vigilant.”
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