Feb 19, 2021 News
– $30M for capital expenditure “inadequate” – Dr. Adams
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guyana’s environment watchdog has received a total of $609 million in the 2021 National Budget, but Dr. Vincent Adams, the former head of the agency says the capital allocation in that sum is not enough.
In an invited comment to Kaieteur News, Adams explained that the total sum is merely 58% of the EPA’s $1.1 billion request for 2020 – the initially planned budget for that year however did not materialize due to the prolonged post-elections controversy. That sum he noted was developed with the involvement of EPA staffers in order to meet the agency’s minimum needs to build a solid foundation and continue the progress made in 2019.
Nevertheless he stated “This $609 million appears to be a reasonable amount, considering that we are still in a COVID-19 environment which will no doubt hamper the EPA work activities like it did in not allowing approval and implementation of the 2020 request.”
Dr. Adams did express however, his displeasure in the $30 million allocation for capital expenditure for the agency. This sum, he explained is inadequate as the EPA does not possess the most basic operating equipment.
“Most notably is that the EPA does not have any operable basic equipment to meet its most basic function of measuring and monitoring contaminants in the air, soil, water or noise when called upon,” he relayed.
The former EPA head recommended that the budget be considerably increased based on the estimated needs outlined by the agency. He added “COVID would not interfere with the procurement of these urgently needed equipment and training to use them during the down time.”
For years, the EPA has been unable to fulfill its mandate due to severe budget constraints and this worrying state of affairs was highlighted by Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran back in 2015.
In a forensic audit of the EPA, Goolsarran detailed that for the years the agency was allocated roughly 50% of their requested operation expenditure. This meant that the EPA had no alternative than to reduce its programme of activities to align with the sums approved.
Basic operations such as site visits for the processing of applications for environmental permits were delayed, resulting in a backlog, Goolsarran had outlined in his report. Similar situations existed with conducting audits and renewals as well. In addition, Goolsarran noted that the EPA has also not been able to have a dedicated regional presence, so vitally necessary for a countrywide execution of its mandate, especially in the interior locations.
Goolsarran also pointed out too in that audit report was that the EPA had no laboratory facilities for the testing of samples. And with Guyana’s budding oil sector on the rise, it creates a worrying situation.
Dr. Adams had relayed to Kaieteur News that the EPA did not have the human resources needed for the proper management of the oil sector. In fact, the agency did not even have the human resources needed to be an effective regulatory body.
He had stated that for the EPA to be efficient, it needs a total of 262 staffers but only had 97 officers working at the time. Further to this, Dr. Adams said that the agency is continuously borrowing the equipment of other ministries to do its work. It was also unable to do proper monitoring due to its poor fleet of vehicles.
With work over time, Dr. Adams managed to increase the agency’s human resource capacity to 120 and plans were afoot to boost it to at least 300 with the intention to procure a state-of-the-art laboratory for the Agency. The fleet of vehicles was also increased to aid monitoring. However, these and other plans were cut short after his contract was suddenly terminated when the new government assumed office.
With the 2021 budget, there is hope to transform the agency into a stringent oil and gas regulator. Dr. Adams expressed hope that major spending will be directed towards meeting the urgent needs for capacity building. That would entail the recruitment of officers for the EPA’s Petroleum Monitoring Unit.
Under his tenure, the EPA had worked with the World Bank to develop a Petroleum Unit containing 36 highly-skilled staffers to streamline its monitoring duties of the oil and gas sector. However, the agency’s efforts were hampered due to the then Coalition regime’s inability to approve the requisite funding due to its caretaker status.
And in light of the many issues being faced by Guyana with the Liza Destiny FPSO, it is crucial for this unit to be in place, he added. Additionally, monies should be spent to ensure that there is an EPA sub-office in each region by the end of 2021 so as to alleviate the cost and inconvenience of business and the public having to travel from the far reaches of the country to Georgetown to conduct business.
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