Jan 14, 2021 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Kaieteur News – In order for Guyana to see success with its imminent local content policy, there must be mechanisms in place to ensure regular reporting, review and disclosure of the achievements made in this regard by oil companies. Additionally, the regulators chosen to keep an eye on these operators must be held accountable for their shortcomings in managing this critical component of the industry.
According to former Minister of Foreign Affairs and now Advisor on Borders, Carl Greenidge, the foregoing were just a few of the perspectives which were exchanged and enjoyed consensus during engagements held with stakeholders by the Local Content Panel. That Panel, of which Greenidge was one of the members, was established last year by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali to compile recommendations on the best provisions for Guyana’s Local Content Policy. While the panel’s report remains under Cabinet review, Greenidge shared with Kaieteur News that he found the process to be a most fruitful one which demonstrated that among Guyanese, there is a strong desire to see oil and gas resources benefit all and for there to be multi-stakeholder involvement and oversight from end to end.
During his exclusive interview with Kaieteur News, Greenidge was keen to note that local content success will be hinged on collaboration and coordination among key stakeholders, such as the citizenry, the media, the oil companies and the government. “This should be a key goal of Government and has been recognized in Article 13 of our Constitution…,” the politician articulated.
Further to this, Greenidge said that the committee discussed with stakeholders, the development of local capacity to plug recognised gaps for jobs and the supply of goods and services if implemented. Here again, Greenidge said that notable calls were made to ensure that accountability and transparency are the hallmarks of that process while adding that all actors responsible for implementing various aspects of the local content policy must be held responsible for every action taken.
The foregoing revelations on the work of the panel would be in stark contrast to that which was executed by the APNU+AFC regime. Kaieteur News was the first to report that the coalition had allowed an ExxonMobil affiliate, Dr. Michael Warner, to hijack the nation’s policy and transform it into a document that served the interests of the oil companies. One of the ways in which he did this was to insert a confidentiality provision that was never part of the original draft compiled by Trinidadian Local Content Expert, Anthony Paul.
Warner’s confidentiality provision sought to hide from public scrutiny; the truth about how many Guyanese would be hired and trained for the operations of the oil companies along with how many local businesses would be given first preference for the procurement of goods and services.
To this very day, ExxonMobil continues to guard this information from the public’s eye despite calls for disclosure from this newspaper and other transparency advocates since 2015. What the oil giant does opt to do, however, is feed the public with sporadic pieces of information on its local content efforts.
For example, on January 11, last, the company was proud to disclose that two local companies—Denmor Garments Manufacturers Inc. and Caribbean Clothing Company Ltd.—secured contracts to manufacture a total of 2000 coveralls for construction workers in Singapore. The workers are supporting construction of the Prosperity, which will become the third floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in Guyana.
What ExxonMobil is still to show Guyanese is a breakdown of the job description for all Guyanese, their salaries alongside foreign hires, and even the plans in place to increase workforce year on year.
In fact, no data has ever been provided for the public to analyze if there was any progression in the employment of Guyanese to senior positions from 2015 to now.
But ExxonMobil is not one that hides from public scrutiny. According to its Production Sharing Agreement, it is required to provide half yearly reports on its local content achievements. That document is expected to outline how appropriate adjustments would be made for betterment in the following year. From 2015 to 2020, the APNU+AFC never released a single report in this regard, save and expect for that one time in 2018 where it disclosed the names of 300 companies ExxonMobil boasted about using as part of its local content efforts.
Upon examination of the information provided, however, it was found that ExxonMobil had padded its list with the names of places like Bourda Market, Haags Bosch Dumpsite, Royal Castle, Bounty Supermarket, Metro Office and Computer Supplies, Star Party Rentals, and Shanta’s Roti Shop. It even listed utility companies such as the Guyana Power and Light and the Guyana Revenue Authority as part of its local content efforts too. Persons were also listed as registered companies. They included Sonia Noel, Chontelle Sewett, Andron Alphonso and Mokesh Daby. Loud condemnation from stakeholders locally and beyond these shores underscored that this does not count as local content.
Efforts to arm the country with a robust law and supporting policy to bring an end to this type of behaviour by the company are still underway.
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