May 17, 2022 News
18 months later…
Kaieteur News –
While in Opposition, Guyana’s Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had stated that an international investigation into the award of the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks – both of which were signed away days before the March 2015 elections – would get his support.
Similarly, during a November 2020 press conference, Jagdeo reiterated his position and disclosed that he had asked for internal documents to be prepared and that he does not have any objection to any probe.
But it has already been 18 months since the November 2020 press conference and there has been no word on the probe into the two oil blocks.
In a series entitled ‘The Fleecing of Guyana’, Kaieteur News had exposed some of the red flags in the Canje and Kaieteur oil Blocks agreements.
The Canje Block for instance was awarded by the Donald Ramotar administration on March 4, 2015, days before that year’s General and Regional Elections, to a local company, Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas.
Similarly, the Kaieteur Block was awarded on April 28, 2015, just two weeks before the elections, and like the Canje Block, it was done based on the advice of former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud. Two companies received the block with 50-50 stakes – Ratio Energy Limited (now Cataleya Energy Limited) and Ratio Guyana Limited.
The award of the oil blocks to the companies was especially concerning since the ultra-deep drilling is required for those blocks, a technique which only a handful of companies in the world have the technology, track record, and capability to execute.
The red flags which have manifested in both situations include that the awards were given to unqualified companies, that the initial owners quickly flipped the blocks without doing any work, that they are incorporated in ‘secrecy’ jurisdictions, and that Guyana likely lost revenue due to the avoidance of an open, competitive bidding process.
That matter was marred with controversy and the former president faced public scrutiny due to the fact that the blocks were given out so close to Election Day.
Ramotar was also criticised since it was alleged that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) knew oil was discovered when it awarded the blocks to the companies.
When Kaieteur News first raised the issue of red flags surrounding the awards, in 2019, the then Opposition Leader—Jagdeo—had said that an independent probe would receive his support.
It was during a June 2019 press conference, he told reporters that he would prefer if an independent, international firm investigated the award of the Kaieteur and Canje oil Blocks. He had said that the State Asset Recovery Agency is too political, in his view, to carry out such an investigation.
In a subsequent press conference the following week, when asked if he would support an investigation into the award of the Stabroek oil block as well, Jagdeo said that an independent investigation would have to deal with all of those issues.
In fact, he had said that he would prefer it if an international firm conducts such an investigation.
The following year, the PPP/C administration assumed office and during a press conference, the Vice President stated that the government intends to peruse briefing reports on the handling of the awards of the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks, to find any possible evidence of corruption.
He had posited, he does not believe any laws were broken, nor was there any evidence of corruption.
It was during his November 2020 press conference, when Jagdeo was reminded of what he said while in opposition that he would support an investigation into the award of the oil blocks, and questioned if he would stand by his words now that he is in office.
To that he responded, “…even before that I had asked for internal documents to be prepared to give us a great understanding of how the process of approval from within that is the petroleum department. So they are working on these giving me specific timelines as to when companies were incorporated, the names of the individuals, when the licences were approved.”
He further reminded reporters that like he said before, “I don’t personally have an objection to any review, because I believe then and now, that no corruption was involved because I know the individuals.”
Jagdeo went on by saying that at the time the licences were given, it was during at era where the PPP administration was very liberal. “We were very liberal in that entire era, which we would not do today, because we found oil now,” the Vice President said.
Notably, Jagdeo tried to justify the awards of the blocks when he stated that former Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, signed an agreement which have the same terms like the agreement Ramotar signed – and added that Trotman had signed the agreement after oil was found, while the contract Ramotar signed was before oil was found.
Moreover, Jagdeo had stated that he wanted to make sure that the media also gets accurate information on the issue.
In fact he said, “I want to make sure that the media also gets proper information… I want to say how long they have been engaged with these companies…because there were long term engagements with them and they were not new engagement that happened suddenly.”
It has since been 21 months since the PPP administration assumed office and there has been no update on the probe into the controversial award of the oil blocks.
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