Jan 23, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The former Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams, believes that if the integrity of the country is to remain protected, Guyana should stop the hiring of foreign experts and instead seek all needed consultants from its large Diaspora.
Dr. Adams made these and other comments at a Moray House Trust virtual discussion titled Guyana’s Oil: Priorities for 2021. There, the former EPA Director reminded listeners of the urgent need for a National Strategic Plan, which would map out what plans and goals the government hopes to achieve from the anticipated inflow of oil revenue. And one of those plans, Dr. Adams added, should include the utilization of the Guyanese Diaspora.
“We have this so-called brain drain. But we should use this opportunity as a brain gain. I know we’ve got probably more Guyanese in the Diaspora than we have in Guyana,” Dr. Adams said while adding, “but you can find every single position needed in Guyana, advisory et cetera, [which could be filled by a] Guyanese in the Diaspora who can do it better than the other foreigners.”
He went on to add, “You know we still, and it’s sad to say, have this colonial mentality, where we believe that anything that comes from aboard, as long as it isn’t our people, then that’s what we need to go with,” while weighing in the need for this mindset to change.
Dr. Adams reminded that these consultants are merely “hired guns” here to capitalize on an opportunity, “make a few bucks” and then leave. “They don’t care about Guyana.”
He believes, however, that Guyanese in the Diaspora still have their country at heart and have the potential to contribute “overwhelming” value to Guyana.
The former EPA admonished the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government, and now the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration for failing to implement a Diaspora plan of action. He recalled that there was a plan in development some years ago, but this never saw the light of day.
“We have got to start taking Diaspora involvement very seriously. They can add a lot of value, overwhelming value to Guyana’s development,” he concluded.
Dr. Adams’ well-intended advice comes on the heels of a slew of controversial hires made by both the past and current governments.
In fact, Kaieteur News reported on controversial Canadian consultant, Alison Redford, who had headed a team for the review of the US$9B Payara Field Development Plan (FDP). She was expected to review the work already done by the consultant hired by the former David Granger administration on the project, Bayphase Oil & Gas Consultants. That company is a client of ExxonMobil and some of its sub-contractors have raised concerns about a conflict of interest.
Scandal plagued Redford’s former political career. As Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, she drew widespread public controversy in Canada when it was discovered that during her attendance of the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the State footed the CAD$45,000 cost of her trip, including about CAD$10,000 for a privately chartered return flight from South Africa. Redford reportedly refused several calls to repay the money spent for the South Africa trip, but eventually bowed to pressure in 2014 and returned the funds to the public purse, along with an apology.
Redford had 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.”
The AG determined, in short, that Redford abused her power and fostered a culture of entitlement. A month after the Government’s approval of the Payara project, reviewed by Redford, Kaieteur News discovered that she, like Bayphase, appeared to have had a conflict of interest in the execution of her review.
Furthermore, Elections Alberta, an independent, non-partisan office of the Legislative Assembly in Canada, keeps records of donations made to political parties.
According to its data, 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.
Before Redford was handpicked to review the Payara FDP, the Coalition had awarded the contract to UK-based firm, Bayphase Oil and Gas Consultants.
Kaieteur News had reported, however, that the company was not only a client of ExxonMobil, but even a number of its primary contractors working in Guyana. In fact, Bayphase is contracted by NEXEN, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and also works for Exxon’s subcontractors which include Schlumberger and Technip FMC. Not only that. This paper had showed too, that Bayphase never gave any unflattering report on its clients.
Furthermore, the coalition had hired US Law firm, Hunton Andrew Kurth, to revise Guyana’s antique petroleum legislation. But that firm shared a solid relationship with ExxonMobil spanning 40 years.
The US$1.2 million bill was set to be financed by the World Bank – the very financial institution, which pledged not to fund activities related to the oil and gas industry. An article from The Guardian revealed that Hunton Andrews Kurth has acted for ExxonMobil for 40 years, while noting that it has worked on multiple cases for the oil giant, some of which were in relation to climate impacts.
It was only after Kaieteur News made this exposure, that the firm disclosed it dropped the contract to rewrite Guyana’s outdated laws.
Lastly, there was the hire of UK Consultant, Dr. Michael Warner, who was selected to complete the current draft Local Content Policy. This newspaper would have exposed, on several occasions, Dr. Warner’s ties to ExxonMobil, as well as the fact that he has never independently produced a policy for any country. He had also removed key provisions that put Guyanese first.
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