Latest update April 1st, 2023 12:59 AM
Feb 09, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – It is four years later and Guyana is unable to get an audit fully done for US$460M. Using this as a benchmark, it should not surprise that the huge US$7.3B audit of ExxonMobil’s expenses has repeatedly gone over promised delivery times. If we cannot complete a relatively much smaller audit done in such a long time, then there is some trouble figuring out what is it that Guyanese can expect from an audit that is 15 times larger, given the billions of expense dollars at stake.
In 2019, an audit of US$460M in pre-contract costs incurred by ExxonMobil was started by UK-based IHS Markit. Four years later, the Hon. Minister of Natural Resources, Mr. Vickram Bharrat, said that there was back and forth between Guyana and ExxonMobil, which held things up. It is a normal occurrence in audits, one where all parties want to have questions answered, and issues cleared, in a reciprocally satisfactory manner. The latest from the Government is that “a final report has now been submitted and is being reviewed by all the relevant agencies (and) stakeholders” and “once that is over, we will conclude the first audit hopefully very soon” (“Exxon US$460M pre-contract audit still ongoing -Minister Bharrat”, KN February 6).
We appreciate Minister Bharrat’s clearing the air, and learning that the actual audit work is, in fact, finished. But four years to audit US$460Mof costs (or anything) is too long, even with allowance made for Guyana’s own review process of the completed audit. Commonsense questions arise. What could be the cause of such lengthy bottlenecks, where this audit seems to have just frozen to death? Second, what is responsible (likely huge) for the delays in responding by ExxonMobil? Third, why is ExxonMobil, a major party, to this ‘smaller’ audit dragging its feet, stonewalling, and in one way or another holding up the process and finished product? This is not helpful, not comforting. Still, Minister Bharrat said that our review of the completed audit should be “hopefully very soon.”
With respect to Minister Bharrat, “hopefully” sounds like an exercise in wishful thinking, and does not instill the kind of confidence that should be after this four year wait. Also, “very soon” again comes across as groping in the dark, where this audit is concerned, and putting a bright smile on matters. Our own Audit Office has been able to commence, complete, and compile audit reports within a much shorter period of time for expenses involving billions of dollars. Admittedly, those are usually in Guyana dollars, and in the scrutinizing of items that are more familiar to locals, dealt with on an almost repeating basis. On the other hand, the US$460M pre-contract costs of ExxonMobil and its partners possibly included many components that may be unknown to our reviewers (the GRA, among others), requiring more time to wrap our arms around the work done by IHS Markit.
Of note, however, is the statement by Opposition MP, David Patterson, that the IHS Markit audit report was sent by the Guyana Government to ExxonMobil since last year for its comments, and the company has not responded since. Why is this so, allowed to stand? What is it that Guyana has flagged for inclusion in the audit report, but which professional standards dictate must be shared with ExxonMobil for its comments? For ExxonMobil to hold this up like this should not be pleasing to the PPPC Government. It certainly is looked upon most unfavorably by us, and should be, too, by all Guyanese. We must all want the best value for our hundreds of millions that ExxonMobil said it spent, and the company should not want anything but that, plus clearance to be paid from our oil revenues.
This is becoming to look like a trend with ExxonMobil doing as it pleases, seeking to run disdainfully all over this ill-equipped, weak, unready nation. We want a trusted partner, one that is responsive to audit reports that may have elements that sharply question ExxonMobil’s spending, pushes back on its mult-imillion dollar pre-contract costs. We are a sovereign nation, and ExxonMobil either works with us to its advantage, or plays these delaying games that exposes the company for what it is.
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