Kaieteur News – This ground has been covered before, so there may be some repetition. Pardon is asked, but the objective is to highlight Guyanese governance and leadership. Citizens get the final say. Whether they are rigidly partisan, keenly observant, focused on fairness, simply content to be fence-sitters and maintain a safe distance (or follow the crowd), they still have the last say on this US$214 million audit scandal.
The claim is that employees of the Ministry of Natural Resources did wrong, as in they engaged in “unauthorized” actions. I take the liberty of using the plural (they) since if it were a single ministry employee only, then he or she would be a Guyanese public servant of extraordinary attributes, a kind never seen before locally. Regardless of whether it is one ministry worker, or a group of them, an action (or a series of actions) was taken with the audit findings that would have cost this country heavily.
With that as the murky background, as stated by Minister and Vice President on behalf of the government, I now proceed to go to where I believe is the heart of this issue that wreaks havoc on credibility, trustworthiness, and the now distressed contributions of all present in this debacle. I take the Hon Vice President on his word that, indeed, there were what I would call these reckless (or rogue) employees, and that all eyes are on them and every finger points to them. The first question is this: were they acting wholly and solely on their own initiative? The second is: did they believe that they had, or heard, or felt that they were empowered to make the type of far-reaching decision that they did? Or, to say this in another way, did the Hon. Vice President of Guyana, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, provide any guidance, have any input, had any foreknowledge, wielded any influence whatsoever in the decision(s) made and the actions taken by those Natural Resources employees? In sum, was there what could have been misinterpreted? Actions now deemed as “unauthorized?”
Third, if he didn’t (and I find this highly dubious, insultingly so, given his ubiquity and power), then when did he know what was going on, and what was the extent of his insights and intelligence feeds about this mystery? Fourth, did an employee or small subset of employees at the Ministry harbour the mistaken idea that whatever action they took with regard to the disputed oil amount (US$214 million), they had the Vice President’s nod of approval, and that he would take care of them, as in have their backs? Fifth, was such an idea or belief or conclusion by workers, now denounced by the Vice President in this troubling context, that which led to the bold initiative taken with the now tampered US$214 million Exxon audit? Sixth, the disturbing matter of incentives has to be hauled to centerstage, with the question being: were any incentives an integral aspect of all these manoeuvres? Seventh, were these manoeuvres purely bureaucratic, or do they have some degree of political taint from some elevated corner? Eighth, was deep-pocketed Exxon, with its uninhibited power and reach in Guyana, an innocent and distant observer, with interested party status only and hands-off actions to match? Or is that another consideration, and Exxon another party, that has to be factored into this audit mess?
Since all ends have to be pursued, and none left dangling, I push myself to go in the direction where I think that the roads could be heading. It is what must be followed, regardless of who is made to look less than upright, who is upset, and who is upended. The tricky and clumsy trail is of this US$214 million audit write-down to US$11 million then to US$3 million, and with last sound bite back to US$107 million. It is where things stand delicately poised on the Guyana Government’s side only, with Exxon silent concerning its take on all that is happening. Now for the final questions. Is this ugly and slimy audit story, from sternum to scrotum, the result of some strange and dark kind of collaboration that wounds the interests of Guyana? Or to employ a real harsh and familiar word to Guyanese: is what we have today, a conspiracy involving elements of a connected and protected bureaucracy, political machinations, and corporate meddling, to round off the circle?
What has unfolded, thus far, has not comforted, instills zero confidence. The latter has never been this low. The Guyana Revenue Authority is reduced to an unwanted, inconvenient stepchild. The Vice President has not inspired in this affair. Guyana couldn’t get audits properly executed because of its lack of required capacity. The trouble is that when Guyana does get an audit, it ends up with what looks dirty, smells dirty, and is surrounded by the dirty. If this is Guyana’s oil age in its baby years, then I need to put as much distance as possible between me and all these profanities and all these participants that leave many Guyanese with the worse doubts that solidify inside.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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