Sep 17, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – If there is all this trouble being experienced by the PPP/C Government with a relatively small US$1.6 billion audit of ExxonMobil’s exploration costs, then we shudder to think of the bigger ones for approved oil projects. If this is part of the puzzles that the man in total command of this rich oil sector, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, presides over with that same audit, then there is no telling of what the experience with the billions upon billions could be when other audits come up for other expensive projects. If one audit is so plagued with the doubtful and questionable, then Guyana is in for a terrible time, with how oil expenses accumulate, getting to the bottom of them, and determining if they really belong to this country.
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) had its arms around the US$1.6 billion audit, with the help of a British partner, IHS Markit. The people at the GRA thought that it had brought matters to a certain stage and that it was ready to report on where it was. The deficiency was that the GRA did not know what else was going on behind the scenes at the Ministry of Natural Resources. Suffice it to say, based on what has emerged in the course of some sharp developments in the public domain, is that some official, or group, at the Natural Resources Ministry was engaging in what is not in Guyana’s interests.
Guyanese are being sold a pig in a bag, with the announcement that what unfolded at the Natural Resources Ministry was “unauthorized.” This certainly stretches intelligence and credulity past the breaking point. Somebody at this porous and errant ministry has to be particularly bold, extraordinarily clever. While the GRA was working diligently on one track with this audit to come to a satisfactory place, there were others at the ministry who had their own twisted ideas, possibly their own undocumented orders, with a different endpoint in mind.
It takes a lot of guts to break out of the government paddock and discuss, arrange, and finalize reducing almost to zero the US$214 million amount at the center of disagreement between the Government of Guyana and ExxonMobil. Somebody took a considerable amount of power and authority in their hands, seemingly without consultation and without care. This is what does not make any sense, looks bad, and sounds worse. The PPPC Government and the Vice President are giving Guyanese the unbelievable and smoothing it over with the equivalent of ‘it is as innocent as this, and trust us.’ There has been so much deceptiveness around this audit, which still is not enough, for now, there are these glosses intended to make fools of the Guyanese people.
It is pushing the envelope past its limits, and seeking the incredible, in putting on the table that someone, some group, at the Natural Resources Ministry, was aggressive enough and audacious enough to make a move (unauthorized) that knocked out hundreds of American millions from the audit amount in dispute. It strains credibility even more when secretive political leaders have been so tightly controlling of all that occurs in the oil sector, and so tightlipped on almost everything that has to do with oil-related audits involving ExxonMobil. They had to have known, and not just yesterday.
There are several lessons from this US$1.6 billion audit. First, the PPP/C Government cannot be depended on to look out for Guyanese. Next, ExxonMobil is a grab-and-grab partner, squeezing every cent out of Guyana for itself. Third, if this relatively small amount in disputed bills can generate so much of what is twisted and apparently crooked, then the prospects for some accuracy, fairness, and justice from the bigger audits of oil projects underway look very remote. When billions could be in dispute, then bigger skullduggeries are likely to be in the making. And last, considering ExxonMobil’s tough, unyielding stance with US$214 million in disputed bills, and its talk about courts and arbitration, there should be not a finger lifted to approve another oil project for this company. What ExxonMobil covets, it will have to regret being without. This is where Guyana should be.
DECEPTION & CORRUPTION getting WORSE by the minute in GUYANA.
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