Dec 03, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The Irfaan Ali-led Administration has been repeatedly dodging calls for the release of large mining contracts.
The Government was pressed earlier this year to make public those contracts it has signed with foreign companies but has failed to do so. Kaieteur News, in particular, following the publication of Guyana’s third Extractive Industries Transparency (EITI) report has been asking Government officials to make the mining contracts public to no avail.
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. Although the requirements are known to the Administration it continues to make excuses in avoiding the release of these contracts.
On Friday, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo at the sidelines of an event at State House, was asked for the fourth time about the release of the mining deals.
“Talk to Vick about that. Vick is more familiar with that. That’s his portfolio,” the VP said. He was referring to Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat. The subject Minister who was also at yesterday’s event, was nowhere to be found at the conclusion of the interview with the Vice President. Calls to his cell phone also went unanswered.
Guyana’s third EITI report was issued in June of this year. After it was published, Jagdeo was confronted about the secret deals at a Press Conference held at the Office of the President. Then, he explained that the large-scale mining contracts in Guyana should be made available to the public should a formal request be made to the Freedom of Information Office.
When asked why the contracts were not made public in the first place, Jagdeo told Reporters that “these contracts don’t rest with the President, if you go to GRA [Guyana Revenue Authority] every one of these contracts will be at GRA because they all have duty-free concessions.”
He was adamant as long as a request is made to the Commissioner of Information for one of the mining contracts “and you don’t get it then that is a different matter”.
“We don’t publish the contracts, the contracts are with the agencies,” he said while suggesting that copies of the contracts are with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). The Vice President said that GGMC is the first agency to sign off on the contracts while GRA would have the contracts so as to provide concessions to the said companies.
“I think the Reporters have to start utilising more that provision, I am going to make sure that we discuss this seriously,” he said.
Later in August of this year, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was asked for an update on the release of the mining contracts by Kaieteur News Publisher, Mr. Glenn Lall when 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.”
The VP later appeared on ‘The Glenn Lall Show’, a radio programme aired on Kaieteur Radio, back in September. When questioned about the release of the mining contracts, he said “You are characterising it as hiding these contracts. For me personally I don’t see any reason why you should not have these contracts.”
The Kaieteur Publisher told the Vice President that this response has been repeatedly given to no avail when Jagdeo blamed the agencies. “I don’t have the contracts,” he said. Lall then asked Jagdeo to ensure the deals are released to which the Vice President replied: “I can undertake to find out with you there, what provision the GRA is so cagey about that it doesn’t want to release… I will undertake that anything that is non- propriety that you get it released. I will personally now see that this happen.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance For Change (AFC) at a Press Conference in October said the refusal to publish the agreements is a clear indication of corrupt government practices.
The Party’s Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan told members of the media that when Governments choose to hide such massive arrangements, it signals their interest in keeping deals quiet to ensure they benefit.
Ramjattan pointed out that while in Opposition, the PPP condemned the former Coalition Administration and even assured it would manage the country’s natural resources better, yet the terms of mining agreements remain secret.
In the meantime, he told this newspaper that the Party would “have to do all that it takes at the Parliamentary level and other places” to ensure the terms of new agreements are made public.
For instance, Ramjattan referenced the recent gold find by Omai which amounts to over US$6B or twice the country’s total debt, US$3.2B. He said he hopes that the country will know how this new find will benefit the citizens of Guyana.
“That’s a major gold find and I believe that we are going to get lots of other gold finds but we have to have a scenario where there is complete transparency to members of the public, to parliamentarians, to the press about these contracts,” the AFC Leader said.
At the same time, the Party Leader reasoned, “The one reason why any Government anywhere in the world do not want to be transparent with its natural resources is corruption. All the big set of monies that can come in as a result of these finds and major discoveries are going to be distributed is the scare of being transparent. Always it is corruption. If there was no corruption, they would have been extremely transparent about it.”
He was keen to note that Governments seek to ensure such deals benefit their friends, family and favourites which would be exposed if contracts are published.
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