Nov 26, 2022 News
…as large-scale mining contracts, Gas agreement remain secret
Kaieteur News – The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Friday demanded the immediate resignation of Head of the Guyana-Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GYEITI), Dr. Prem Misir. The Party believes that there has been a reversal of the strides made towards achieving transparency in the country, especially as it regards the mining sector under the current government.
Leader of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan at his party’s press conference told reporters that since the former Director of GYEITI, Dr. Rudy Jadopat was removed, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration has “hardened its position to disassociate from the global body not wanting to live by the high standards it sets.”
Ramjattan explained that the fourth report of GYEITI will be due on December 31, 2022 but from all indication, the document is nowhere close to completion by Dr. Misir and his team.
“To date, a proper independent administrator is still to be hired. Rather, the Minister of National Resources bypassed the multi-stakeholder group which ought to have prepared and approved the terms of reference for the procurement of independent administrative service and appointed the services of the 2021 administrator without any international tender process. This handpicking is a violation of EITI standards,” Ramjattan said.
The AFC fears that Dr. Misir and his team’s inexperience may lead to Guyana’s expulsion for several violations. The former Minister of Public Security said the implications from an expulsion would mean that foreign direct investment would be affected.
“When they look at the scoreboard as to which countries to come in, which countries are very transparent with their institutions of governance and transparency in their record keeping in the various sectors (they) would find that Guyana is so opaque that they are not gonna want to come and what will come to Guyana will be corrupt kinds of investors – not that which we would want to come to Guyana,” he explained.
Cognizant of this consequence, Ramjattan said the former Coalition government worked tirelessly to pass certain benchmarks and raise the bar by implementing new transparency standards, especially in the mining sector. In fact, he boasted that the country had three “very successful” years under the stewardship of Dr. Jadopat.
“Dr. Misir should tender his resignation or be fired and every effort be made to reinstate the services of Dr. Jadopat who successfully set up and made operational GYEITI (local chapter) for the previous three years,” the Party insisted.
In prefacing his argument, Ramjattan told reporters that the country is yet to see the large-scale mining contracts that have been entered into by the incumbent government. He again urged that the agreements be made public, failing which the public should condemn the government for its lack of transparency.
“Guyana as a country nor her countrymen will not benefit from such concealment but only the corrupt few who are friends, family and favourites of the PPP,” he said while noting that transparency must not only be expected from this body, but also at the level of the Parliamentary Natural Resources Sectoral Committee. The AFC leader reminded that that Committee has not had a meeting since the Irfaan-Ali led administration took office.
Supporting Ramjattan, Executive Member of the AFC and Shadow Natural Resources Minister David Patterson, said he has submitted a Motion to the National Assembly seeking the contract- if signed- between the government and ExxonMobil for the Gas to Energy project.
Patterson said he hopes the administration does not use the excuse of a ‘Confidential Clause’ to avoid releasing the terms of the agreement with the oil company.
Meanwhile, as it regards the release of large scale mining contracts, Ramjattan was asked by this newspaper what steps the AFC is prepared to take to ensure these became public.
“We wanted to get the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources to start functioning. What we now understand is that the PPP do not want that Parliamentary Committee to function because members therein have the power to subpoena let’s say a Prem Misir to ask what and what mining contracts you have that were sent to you for the report of the various agencies,” he said in response to the question.
He said the party was anticipating the operationalization of the body so as to scrutinize the deals from the various agencies such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) or the Natural Resources Ministry on the oil sector.
“The other is to compel by subpoena, because the Committees have powers to compel the heads such as Dr. Prem Misir to come and indicate that or the head of GGMC to come and say how many gold mining contracts and big scale ones you have granted or how many oil concessions you have granted and so on.” This, he said, is not being done.
Ramjattan assured that he will continue to flag the issue to expose the government to the international transparency body through the media.
This newspaper reported in June last that the country’s third Extractive Industries Transparency (EITI) report made yet another call for the government to release all mining contracts, especially those dealing with large-scale operations.
Since becoming a member of the global body, the report notes that the government agreed to adhere to several requirements. In this case, EITI requirement 2.4 (a) of the 2019 Standard states that Guyana should publicly disclose all mineral agreements entered into force prior to the reporting period, in this case, 2019.
Importantly, the report highlights that the country’s Mining Act (1989) does not include any expressed restrictions on the public disclosure of mineral agreements and licenses by the government.
It goes further to state that even the mineral agreement signed on November 18, 2011 for Aurora Gold Mine developed by Guyana Goldfields is silent about restrictions on the public disclosure of the mineral agreement. Be that as it may, that very agreement, along with many others, is not available online for citizens to understand what concessions were granted to these firms versus what the country would get in return. In light of this, Guyana’s third EITI report recommended that a work plan be drafted for the electronic publication of all mineral agreements in the mining sector.
In August of this year, Vice-President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo was asked for an update on the release of the mining contracts by Kaieteur News Publisher, Mr. Glenn Lall. The VP again promised to make the contracts public.
Jagdeo said, “I don’t think these agreements should be secret. Right, because the concessions are standard…many people don’t remember this but the Minister of Finance used to sign every duty free letter that was when I was there and we changed it when I became President and even before that we started moving to change it where all of that, the administering of duty-free concessions would be done by the GRA and not by a political individual and secondly, they would be based on legislation.”
He therefore indicated, “I don’t see the reason why many of these are not in the public domain already. I’ll find out about it.”
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