Aug 12, 2020 News Comments Off on UN wants answers for 2016 Exxon deal and SARA corruption probes
The United Nations Human Rights Committee earlier this month wrote to the government of Guyana requesting explanations for a series of issues, including several reports of corruption including but not limited to Guyana’s petroleum sector and the controversial deal with ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC for operations on the Stabroek Block.
The deal was originally signed by Janet Jagan in 1999 and was in its final years, when former Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, in 2016 utilised a bridging deed to grant what essentially became a new contract with negligible improvements in its terms.
While local media outlets and civil society drew attention to a pervasive lopsidedness in the contract’s fiscal terms, as well as flagrant illegalities, the contract gained even more notoriety when globally respected anti-corruption watchdog, Global Witness reported that the terms of the contract are so unfair, that Guyana is set to lose US$55B over the life of the agreement.
The key focus of the report is Trotman, who it said ignored expert advice and signed the contract away in a worryingly short period, while on a lavish trip to the multinational’s Texas headquarters.
Global Witness called for an investigation into the award. However, the then David Granger government opposed the Global Witness report and defended the contract. There was no investigation.That is another issue raised by the UN. It requested that the government report on measures taken to ensure prompt and thorough investigations, including by the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) into all allegations of corruption, as well as prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. SARA was established in 2017. It has received hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, but has nothing to show for it.
One case pertinent to the oil sector, which came under SARA’s purview, is the suspicious award of the Kaieteur and Canje blocks just weeks before the 2015 elections by the then President, Donald Ramotar. The suspicious nature of the award was brought sharply into focus when exposed by Kaieteur News. Nothing came of that investigation.
Hence, the transparent management of Guyana’s natural resources, particularly its oil and gas patrimony continues to gather concerns. The UN Human Rights Committee has also asked the Government to comment on its management of the sector, as well as what measures it has taken to ensure the full implementation of anti-corruption legislation.
The UN requests came just days after President Irfaan Ali was sworn in, after he unseated David Granger in Guyana’s general election.
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