By Bibi Khatoon
Despite what is being suggested by some persons, there is no “secret clause” in the Government of Guyana- ExxonMobil contract. This is according to Alliance For Change (AFC) Executive member, David Patterson who was at the time responding to questions surrounding the non-disclosure of the contract.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Patterson told media operatives that he thinks “majority of persons will be absolutely disappointed when the contract– at some stage which will be, I’m sure, will be made public—will be very disappointed in the contracts, because you know all of the contents of it. The distrusting nature of the public or the inquiring minds of the may make you suspicious that there are some secret clauses in it which there are not.”
The party, whose leader is the Minister of Natural Resources, also pointed to a non-disclosure clause within the contract. Additionally, Patterson added that the much debated possibility of neighbouring Venezuela using the contract to sabotage Guyana’s oil prospects was based on advice given by an official who is part of the United Nations mediating team to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
ExxonMobil’s previous engagement
There have been several reports published about the oil company’s malpractice in other countries. In Equatorial Guinea for example, it was found that ExxonMobil was funneling millions of dollars into a private account belonging to the Government, and was also granting contracts to the friends and family members connected to the government. Also in Chad, Exxon Mobil Corp. was ordered to pay a record $74 billion fine for underpaying royalties in the central African nation where the company has been drilling for 15 years
The AFC, which forms part of the coalition Government, stated that while the topic is an area of concern, it is not a reason to give up on such a great prospect.
The party’s Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan stated that, “if indeed Exxon (theoretically) behaves the way they probably did in Chad or whatever, we will have to now use our diplomatic resources, we’ll have to use our Government to Government resources to ensure that this big company pays us what the court would’ve ordered.”
He admitted that, “if however that company does not pay, there will be a big problem,” but pointed out that “this does not mean that we must not enter and engage with ExxonMobil.”
The AFC Chairman also pointed out that systems will be put in place to ensure the company complies with international regulations.
The slothfulness of Guyana’s judicial system was also brought into question along with its capacity to handle these matters relating to the industry.
Ramjattan, who is also the Minister of Public Security, explained that the contract and the laws governing the sector will serve a purpose in this regard. He added that, “if it’s a very technical matter—like the Supreme Court of America, they’re not made up of oil experts—they’ll call in their oil experts to explain to them what it means, what are international best practices and then they’ll make their judgment.”
As such, he noted that the judiciary will be able to do their work.
Guyana’s application to the EITI
Guyana submitted its candidature application to the EITI International Secretariat in Oslo, Norway on Friday.
The report was submitted by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman through National Coordinator of EITI Secretariat, Dr. Rudy Jadoopat. Under this initiative which not only governs the oil sector but all other extractive sectors, the companies in the extractive sector are mandated to provide a report on what is paid to the Government.
The government is then tasked with providing a separate report on what it received, after which it will be determined if there is any irregularities. The body will also issue recommendations for improving governance of the sector which is a major contributor to the country’s GDP.