Dec 02, 2021 News
—TIGI joins calls for transparency of audited oil expenses
By Rehana Ramsey
Kaieteur News – While it is common for oil companies to operate in secrecy across the globe, the onus is on governments to deal with these companies in a manner that allows for transparency.
This is the view of the President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI) Frederick Collins. Collins was at the time joining calls made by Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram and others to have the findings of any audit of Exxon’s expenses made public including the US$9.5 B, which President Irfaan Ali and Vice President (VP), Bharrat Jagdeo promised to do despite the deadline has elapsed.
Following public criticisms of government’s failure to audit the US$9.5B bill handed to them by Exxon for expenditure for the Liza 1 and 2 projects Ali and Jagdeo had committed to getting the audits done. In an invited comment to Kaieteur News, Collins expressed the view the Chartered Accountant should not have to call on the Government to publicise the documents. He said rather that transparency should be second nature of the government. “Ram should not have to ask to do that. We [the citizens] should not have to call on them for this. The government’s default position should be making the finding available,” he said.
The TIGI President continued that, “Transparency is a default position of good governance. It should be the natural order of things. These documents should be published so that we can see what is going on.” To this end, Collins emphasized that while the government is responsible for holding the oil companies to a level of transparency it is up to the citizens to be vigilant about their resources.
He stressed that “the people have every right to be vigilant and speak up for transparency and advocate for change where necessary.”
As it relates to the issue of getting the oil companies to agree on auditing the US $9.5 expenses past the deadline, the TIGI Head said, while the task may not be easy for the administration, it is doable. Collins expressed the view that Guyana’s government has the wherewithal to get the oil companies to agree. He reasoned: “Even if the time has passed for the audit of the expenses, a contract is not a one party agreement; all parties have to be on the same page… “
In this regard, he noted that “with oil, there have been deviations from the contract by the companies … flaring, for example, is not supposed to happen but the oil companies are doing it and there are other examples of deviations from the contract in other areas as well. I say this to say that one party should not be allowed to deviate from the contract while another cannot… the government needs to take advantage of this and demand the oil companies give them the same scope to allow the audits”
Similarly, Ram had noted that getting the audits done is all in the interest of good governance.
“At this point, I think the President and the Vice President should be taken at their word that the audits will be done. Hopefully, it gets done as soon as possible so if there are adjustments to the spending, for instance, if any incorrect costs are allocated we can make the appropriate adjustments,” Ram said.
While it is unclear how the government intends to get the oil giant to agree to such an audit beyond the deadline, Ram noted that the commitment made by the leaders is a good place to start. “The previous APNU+AFC administration had set the bar low by allowing the oil companies to basically do what they want. But, it would be an act of good faith if this government can get the oil company to agree to audit the expenditure past the deadline. It would also be commendable if the oil companies allow that to happen,” the chartered accountant had said.
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