Latest update March 30th, 2023 12:59 AM
Sep 18, 2022 Features / Columnists, The GHK Lall Column
>>>Encouraging Events, Disturbing Developments<<<
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – What is happening in Kenya provides the Guyana Government with a blueprint. It is a free GPS that allows us to navigate the forests of expenses submitted by oil companies. It is from real-life in Kenya, with hard lessons for Guyana.
Oil companies have to recover their billions invested upfront. The bills presented upon discovery of oil in commercial quantities are massive since plenty of costs have to be recovered. This is one area in which oil companies are not the best of partners, honest ones. This is where unprepared Third World countries are ripped off, which is what foreign watchdogs warn new oil producing countries to be vigilant about. In Kenya, staffing in an area as vital as its State Department of Petroleum was 80 percent below what it should be. This means that there was only one person to check and monitor costs submitted by Tullow Oil and others, when five such checkers and monitors were needed. If anything, it is an invitation to Tullow Oil to help itself with bills submitted.
Our 2016 oil agreement with the Exxon-led consortium empowers us to look closely at the expenses that the company bills to us. What is recoverable and what isn’t bears the sharpest, closest scrutiny. Exxon will go the limit, if not beyond. Also, what could be heavily inflated must be guarded against, by checking out, and comparing, and actually verifying, as these things occur. Monthly is as real-time as we are going to get. But it is helpful, while the right to view projected spending has much value. These are ways in which we can put the brakes on Exxon and its partners. We have been too helpful, almost partners in crime, with Exxon, Hess, and Nexen.
I think that the sooner Guyanese – from leaders to loyalists to citizens – get it into their heads that foreign oil companies are not our friends, the better off we will be. The reality is that oil companies are ruthless and ultra-aggressive in the pursuit of profits, and by using any and every trick in the book. If they have to compromise leaders, institutions, and persons likely to expose their shenanigans, they will do so. It is my position that Exxon has already made its moves, and succeeded. Look at our weak and dodgy leaders, look at our Parliamentarians, look at our professional and private sector elites.
When leaders in the PPP Government don’t establish new institutions (appropriate petroleum bodies), or fund existing agencies to monitor, then they are as good as committing incest with Exxon. Bodily and reputational and national damage is done. I urge the skeptics to look at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If ever there is an agency that is muzzled into impotency and irrelevancy, it is Guyana’s EPA. It is why Exxon is making rings around us, getting away with doing such, and laughing at us.
I look at the group assembled to audit the billions in bills, and question whether it has what it takes. This is not only with technical skills, but relative to courage and the kind of character that must be present for Guyanese to get first value, and then justice from this huge exercise compressed into 120 days, with some leeway. What makes matters even more iffy, is the early position taken concerning the cleanliness and acceptability of what rapacious Exxon submitted for its billions in bills. In combination, concerns about length of time for the audit, the quality of the reviewing team, and a position set in stone about the trustworthiness of Exxon’s bills to be examined, all seem to confirm that Guyana is being prepared for a scalping. Both the foreign oil companies and their local helpers are giving the citizens of this country a sham and a show.
I think that there is much that we can do better. It calls for the right checks and balances in place, with the right people (ethical) given clear mandates and free room, enough people of calibre, and the will to deliver for the Guyanese people, who now pin so much on this oil wealth. When we don’t have much of these, we are sold down the drain, lose out heavily.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
You sucking the dry seed of your own mangoes, while the foreigners eating sweet flesh.
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