Mar 01, 2021 News
By Kemol King
Kaieteur News- Why make a promise, and later refuse to fulfill it? – Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat had told Kaieteur News in August last year that after the Canadian consultant, Alison Redford, spearheaded the review of the Payara project, the findings would be made public. Two weeks after he made that commitment, the Payara Field Development Plan (FDP) was approved. The approval was announced on September 30, 2020. The project is slated to come on stream in 2024, producing up to 220,000 barrels of oil a
day. The Government had published the Payara production licence and the environmental permit, but not the findings of the team headed by the controversial Canadian consultant Alison Redford. It has been five months since that approval, and the public is still waiting.
Why should the findings of Redford’s review be published? – The review process was marred by grave environmental concerns about the dumping of produced water into the ocean and the flaring of natural gas. Advocates for a better deal had urged government to withhold approval of Payara to force Stabroek block co-venturers – ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC – to give Guyana a renegotiated Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with a bigger share of the revenue. Transparency advocates beckoned Government to wait, develop its capacity to monitor, and quickly audit the expenses ExxonMobil had already claimed for recovery, first. The Payara project approval went on to add a whopping US$9 billion to the billions in estimates which preceded it. This estimate is 157 percent more than the estimated cost of the Liza Phase One project, and 50 percent more than the cost of the Liza Phase two project which has similar specifications.
So, who is Alison Redford, the woman entrusted with reviewing ExxonMobil’s US$9 billion project? – She is a former politician, for one, with a career plagued by scandal. 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 delivered the funds back to the public purse, with an apology.
Redford announced her resignation in March 2014 as Alberta Premier, and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in August of that year, 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.”
All of this, Kaieteur ventilated shortly after Government announced that it hired Redford in August 2020.
Redford was expected to review the work already done by the consultant hired by the David Granger administration on the project, Bayphase Oil & Gas Consultants. That company is a client of ExxonMobil and some of its sub-contractors, raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
A month after the Government’s approval of the Payara project, reviewed by Redford, Kaieteur News discovered that she, like Bayphase, appears to have had a conflict of interest in the execution of her review.
According to publicly available data from Elections Alberta, an independent, non-partisan office of the Legislative Assembly there, Redford’s Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCA) party 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.
Why make a promise, and later refuse to fulfill it? One can only speculate.
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