Jan 17, 2021 News
– British politicians fume over potential conflict of interest, while Guyana’s remain silent
Kaieteur News – The new United Kingdom Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has been caught in a row with Labour Party politicians, after a public revelation that he accepted donations from fossil fuel interests to his 2019 election campaign. Labour Party politicians view this as a conflict of interest, as his new portfolio makes him a key official in the enactment of the government’s green pledges.
This mirrors the potential conflict of interest posed by the hiring of ex-Canadian politician, Alison Redford, late last year to review the US$9B Exxon Payara project. The Guyana government had hired her despite the fact that she benefitted from donations from an Exxon subsidiary during her political career in the Canadian province of Alberta.
Environment correspondent for the British Guardian newspaper, Fiona Harvey, wrote on Thursday that Kwarteng, who moved from the energy minister post to secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, received £16,000 from companies and individuals with a direct interest in fossil fuels during the 2019 general election campaign. The donations came from a holding company called IPGL, which has 40 percent stake in Cluff Energy Africa, a Chief Executive of Crescent Petroleum and board member of Dana Gas company named Majid Jafar, and Helios Investment Partners which has multiple oil and gas firms in its portfolio. Harvey wrote that Kwarteng also received £4,500 from companies that advise on or facilitate trading of fossil fuels, including Capital Generation Partners and CQS.
Labour was alarmed at this revelation, as the Conservative Party government had committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Alan Whitehead, the shadow energy and green new deal minister, is reported as saying that Kwarteng should give back the money he received from fossil fuel interests: “Ministers should not accept money from donors where there is a clear conflict of interest, and I hope he will pay it back. Our democracy should never be up for sale to Tory donors.”
A spokesperson for Kwarteng reportedly said there was no conflict of interest and that all donations were in line with the ministerial code.
While politicians of the United Kingdom are up in arms about this potential conflict, none has sounded the horn in Redford’s potential conflict. At the time of the announcement of her hiring, Kaieteur News had reported on one scandal plaguing her career, that of her mismanagement of thousands of dollars of Canadian taxpayer dollars while serving as Premier of Alberta. In one case, Redford had to pay back the CAD$45,000 cost of her trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, which included about CAD$10,000 for a privately chartered return flight from South Africa. She had made a public apology after significant pressure.
Redford announced her resignation in March 2014 as Alberta Premier, and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in August, a day before an Attorney General (AG) report on her spending practices was scheduled for release.
The AG report found that she and her office had “used public resources inappropriately;” “used public assets (aircraft) for personal and partisan purposes” and that Redford “was involved in a plan to convert public space in a public building into personal living space.”
Kaieteur News had raised questions about whether the Irfaan Ali administration conducted sufficient due diligence checks on Redford, but the Irfaan Ali administration gave no response and allowed her to continue the review of the US$9B oil development.
Later, Kaieteur News discovered a potential conflict of interest posed by Redford’s hiring.
Elections Alberta, an independent, non-partisan office of the Legislative Assembly kept records which note that Redford’s party, Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCA), received donations from an Exxon subsidiary called Imperial Oil over many years, while she was a member.
In the period during which the donations were received, Redford quickly moved up in the PCA, eventually becoming its leader and Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta. The donations to the party, since Redford became active in the party, up to the months after her departure from politics, amounted to nearly CAD$70,000.
Similarly, the Ali administration ignored this revelation. There were no utterances from the Opposition either.
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