>>>Encouraging Events, Disturbing Developments<<<
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – There was coverage in KN on Wednesday and Thursday last that brought the encouraging from one article, and the disturbing in both. It has to do with the readiness of two crucial State bodies to function effectively in the new oil world of Guyana. In a fraction of nutshell, both of the two agencies are struggling to cope in this new Age of Guyana.
On Wednesday, the Auditor General (AG) declared that his Audit Office (AO) was not equipped to handle audits in the oil sector (KN September 21). I say thanks to the AG for being frank and honest by revealing the limitations under which his AO operates. It is a startling admission, given that we are now years deep since the discovery of oil. I think that it is something that should be imitated by other public servants and their political masters, especially the senior ones, for openness would only serve Guyanese better, no matter how difficult the conversation.
Nevertheless, this does not give either the AG or the AO a pass on the failure to flag the glaring deficiency with that tax money in the nation’s Oil Fund. Its absence should not have been missed, not even by a tenderfoot auditor, since it was so huge. It is disturbing that this was what came out of the AO’s review, and does not give any confidence as to the quality of audits to be expected in other sensitive non-oil areas of the business of the State. To put bluntly, if the AO could not see a tax item of such significance, and make a bigger one itself in its own blindness, then I put the question: what can it see? What is it equipped by training and inclination to go after? Though loaded, I emphasise that word inclination. Despite its lack of what would properly equip it, there is the high probability that the AG and his Office could encounter similar, if not worse, difficulty if the powerful inclination to be dogged, trusted, and reliable is not present. Dogged, trusted, and reliable must be the primary vision and mantra of the AG’s and AO’s work. This is what inspires faith in the Audit Office, and this is regardless of who, or which group, is governing.
Along the above lines, on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came in for more blows. The Agency’s former head, Dr. Vincent Adams said that it is unprepared to execute thoroughly the full range of its duties. Like the Audit Office, Guyana’s EPA exists under a cloud of suspicion. Why is it this way? What has come over it? When will it be ready? It had to do with an oil spill involving a barrel of crude, a mere matter of 42 gallons of the raw stuff. Two weeks later, Guyanese don’t have a clue about what really went on (spilled) out there in Exxon’s offshore operations.
How much oil was spilled? Was it one barrel or more? Has Exxon shared the full story, as to the amount spilled, and what was responsible? What we do know a fortnight later is that the nation’s EPA doesn’t know. And when the local EPA is in the dark, then we, the citizens, are in a worst place. If this can be the state of things for one barrel of oil spilled, then I shudder to think of its readiness should there be a bigger one. The prayer is that such never be our fate. But this is where the EPA is, and Guyanese are, after that supposedly single barrel spill.
After the initial media reports of the small spill, the blankets came out, and the sun went down. This is perfect for Exxon and its hustlers given free rein to do what they please. They have done so, and they will continue to take advantage of either weakened, muzzled, or possibly compromised institutions of the State. Guyanese are left with whatever cunning leaders see fit to deliver to them, what they term transparency and accounting to the public. A fine kettle of fish leaders of this country has turned to be. Meanwhile, national hopes sizzle in the fire.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
Exxon has to put up a sign board across the Demerara Harbour Bridge to tell Guyanese what % of revenue we are getting from the Stabroek Block!
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