Jul 01, 2022 News
– Norton says clear criteria must be set
Kaieteur News – With just about two months to go before Guyana starts auctioning off its remaining oil blocks, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has called on the government to make public the bid criteria and to provide the public with an opportunity to have a say in relation to the process.
Norton, during a press conference yesterday said that given, the number of corruption and transparency issues facing the administration, information regarding the auctioning of the oil blocks should be clear to the public to ensure that the entire process is above board. “There should be no auction without an investigation into these claims as well as the implementation of several measures to improve transparency and accountability during this process,” Norton told reporters.
He said that at minimum, the auction of national oil blocks must include clear criteria as to minimum requirements any applicant must satisfy. He said that extensive due diligence should be employed to ensure each applicant meets the minimum requirements as well as a clear criteria as to how winning bidders will be selected. He said that if multiple rounds of bidding take place, clear rules as to how this will occur should be in place and “a period of national consultation to determine if the rules and criteria laid out are appropriate and acceptable to the Guyanese people” should be held.
The Opposition Leader reminded that it would not be the first time that the nation would have seen the awarding of blocks under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) marred in controversy that promoted public outcry. Just days before exiting office in 2015, former President Donald Ramotar had signed over two of the country’s oil blocks to firms he said he was unfamiliar with and was unaware of the exploration capabilities.
The Opposition Leader’s call stemmed somewhat from the Vice News revelation where the controversial Chinese national Su implicated Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo in collecting bid (s) in relation to the oil operations. He said that Guyanese were legitimately alarmed when they heard Su speak about other amounts of money- (allegedly collected by Jagdeo)-before, being much bigger “like the oil company.” Norton claimed that “Su’s allegation that bribes were paid in connection with an oil contract raises a series of questions in particular, whether the upcoming auction of oil blocks in Guyana is a sham, with winners already chosen because they have already paid the so called consultation fees to government ministers.” He said that the nation’s assets worth billions of United States dollars is now not going to the highest bidder, but the highest briber.
The Opposition Leader reiterated calls for civil society and the international community to join the push for an impartial investigation into the numerous allegations of bribery against the Vice President. Norton also reiterated calls for Jagdeo to step aside or be fired by President Irfaan Ali to facilitate an investigation. “This is not a light matter,” he asserted. He said tens of billions of US dollars belonging to Guyanese are on the line. “It is not Jagdeo’s money, it is not the government’s money; it is the people’s money. No oil block auction should take place under the present corrupt circumstances,” he insisted.
No official announcement has been made on which oil blocks will be auctioned come September, but based on the review of the respective Production Sharing Agreements (PSA), it is believed that they will include relinquished portions of the Kanuku, Corentyne, Demerara, Canje and the Kaieteur Blocks when the country engages in its first auction of the offshore resource. VP Jagdeo had told reporters that onshore oil blocks will not be part of the September process. No part of the Stabroek Block is expected to be included in this maiden bid round since the 2016 PSA allows for 20 percent of the acreage to be relinquished after seven years, which will come to terms next year.
The Kanuku Block is operated by Repsol which gave up 20 percent of the block this year. It holds a 37.5 percent stake while Tullow holds 37.5 percent and TOQAP, a company jointly owned by Total E&P Guyana B.V. and Qatar Petroleum, holds 25%.
The Corentyne and Demerara Blocks are operated by Canadian explorers, CGX Energy Inc and Frontera Energy Corporation. CGX has successfully relinquished parts of the Demerara and Corentyne blocks to the State. Like Stabroek, the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks are operated by ExxonMobil’s subsidiary Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL). In the case of Kaieteur, 25 percent had to be relinquished since February 2021. This is yet to occur. As for Canje, 20 percent was relinquished in 2019. In the Canje block, EEPGL holds a 35 per cent interest. The remaining partners are Total Energies E&P Guyana with a 35 per cent stake, JHI Associates with 17.5 percent and Mid-Atlantic Oil & Gas with 12.5 per cent. In Kaieteur, Esso has 35 percent working interest, Hess Corporation holds 20 percent, Ratio Guyana Ltd has 25percent and Cataleya Energy Ltd. 20 percent.
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