Jan 06, 2023 News
…as President blanks end-of- year news conference, Ministers opt to sit with DPI
Kaieteur News – Since taking the reins of office in August 2020, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration has not held Cabinet press briefings which serve to inform the media, and the nation by extension, of critical decisions made on contracts and other issues.
In addition to Cabinet press briefings being dead, and the administration being dismissive in the past on its return, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has not addressed the media regarding critical developments in the oil and gas sector.
In place of facing the independent media, the President has developed a fondness for Facebook Lives and the issuance of statements. While he is an advocate for local content, the President has been more open to engaging international media as opposed to the independent Guyanese press.
Furthermore, his Ministers with key portfolios have not held press conferences to update the media corps on its stewardship of major industries. Notably in this bracket is the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat. While Bharrat is the Minister in charge of the oil and gas sector, he has never officially engaged with the media to address key concerns on transparency and accountability or to speak on upcoming developments. In many instances, local media operatives are left to learn about developments in the oil sector, such as the exploration programmes offshore for a given year from companies as opposed to his ministry.
Furthermore, there has notably been no end of year press conference by Senior Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, who is tasked with maintaining the nation’s economic wellness.
Other major agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) which has a heightened role in auditing the multi-billion dollar oil and gas sector, has not held a single press conference, though this was the practice prior to 2020.
Another major agency that did not hold an end of year press conference was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the key regulators of the oil and gas industry. Independent media houses have in the past two years, also complained about the difficulties in accessing information from Ministers even as they make themselves available for a range of well choreographed interviews via the Department of Public Information (DPI).
While Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, has held meetings with the media where questions on the oil and gas sector have been allowed, in many instances, he has been dismissive on a number of issues. On several occasions he has directed Kaieteur News to pose certain questions on the oil and gas sector to the relevant agencies, which, as noted before, have not been open to probing from independent media houses.
With the foregoing information blackout, Kaieteur News is yet to receive answers on the state of the full coverage insurance for the Stabroek Block from ExxonMobil Corporation. Exxon and Government were said to be in talks on this front since January 2022. This newspaper had pressed Jagdeo for an update on this but he said the EPA should be made to deal with this.
Government is also yet to explain to the nation, why a breakdown of ExxonMobil’s bills for exploration, at the very least, has not been put into the public domain. Government has also been silent on why it is yet to disclose the results of two audits; one on Exxon’s costs totalling US$7.3B, incurred from 2018 to 2020, and another set, over US$460M, also incurred by Exxon in the Stabroek Block from 1999 to 2016.
Kaieteur News is also yet to receive information on how much ExxonMobil is recovering for decommissioning costs. Industry experts have said on numerous occasions that money has to be set aside by Exxon in a special account for cleanup activities after all the oil has been produced and sold. This money is supposed to be under Government’s control but according to the Stabroek Block deal, it is not. Previously, Government had said that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission would be transformed into the nation’s Petroleum Commission, a key independent regulator that is needed for the industry. A portion of the US$20M World Bank loan was also used for this purpose. There has been no update on this front.
Guyanese are also none the wiser on the appropriate technology being put in place offshore to monitor Exxon’s operations. In the absence of same, Exxon self regulates and reports to the authorities on itself.
As Government speeds ahead with efforts to approve a fifth project for ExxonMobil, there is still zero public disclosure on the guidelines it is using to conduct a thorough due diligence of the project plans. There has also been little information disclosed about the number of technical experts hired within the Ministries of Natural Resources, EPA, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and other agencies to improve their operational competencies in the oil sector.
Citizens are also yet to receive an update on the status of efforts to update policies, laws and regulations governing the oil and gas sector.
Jagdeo will make ayo sell ayo bodies to feed ya’ll pickney.
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