APNU+AFC ministers accused of setting up ‘front’ companies
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has accused the APNU+AFC government of being involved in setting up front companies so as to benefit from the country’s emerging oil and gas sector.
Jagdeo, a former President, told a news conference earlier this week that a number of front companies, with key APNU+AFC individuals, ministers and shareholders have submitted applications to the Ministry of Natural Resources for Petroleum Exploration and Production License (PEPLs).
“There are at least two companies that we know of that have developed complex shareholding structures that have made applications for these PEPLs in offshore blocks that are available now,” he said.
According to the Opposition Leader, the People’s Progressive Party is also aware that several foreign companies are trying to get these blocks offshore. He said in the past, the blocks were available but there was no interest expressed in them because Guyana did not find oil at that time. But according to Jagdeo, these foreign companies have unhealthy contacts with some ministers and their surrogates.
“So a lot of these local companies have no means whatsoever, who are aligned to ministers and their families etc and some others – cronies – they have no means of finding hundreds of millions of US dollars to do the exploration work. So they will get these blocks and weeks later, they will sell the blocks without any competitive process being followed because…they will get them and then sell them onwards,” Jagdeo said.
He further explained that if a license is granted, then they have the possibility of making millions of dollars and if President David Granger is serious about transparency, he should shut down the process.
But at a subsequent press conference on Thursday, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, who is also an AFC executive member, denied the accusations by Jagdeo. Patterson claimed that Jagdeo “gave out” all the blocks and there is none left for the government to issue to anyone else.
The PPP then responded in a statement on Friday, noting that, “Ministers of the Coalition Government continue to peddle massive lies and misinformation unashamedly and with impunity. They continue to get the Kaieteur News to sensationalize these lies with blazing headlines on the front pages of the newspapers. All with the intention to fool, mislead and insult the intelligence of the public.”
“Firstly, we comprehensively reject the ridiculous contention of Minister Patterson that they are no available petroleum-mining blocks. Ministers have a responsibility to go to press conferences with a sober head and equip themselves with facts in relation to matters upon which they intend to speak and must refrain from vocally emitting every bizarre thought that comes to their minds,” the PPP statement noted.
The statement further noted, “The truth of the matter is that there are many more petroleum-mining blocks available. Only recently, Minister Raphael Trotman referred to the existence of these petroleum-mining blocks when he spoke about how new oil and gas exploration and production licences should be granted. He said, “Whether we go openly and publicly with international bids, or whether we have quiet and private discussions, will be determined by the national interest.” Without more, Trotman’s assertion by themselves prove that Patterson is lying. Moreover, everyone who has some familiarity with the sector knows that they are several petroleum-mining blocks available.”
The PPP called on the Government to make public, a list of all the petroleum-mining blocks, the names of the persons or companies to whom they have been allocated and the date of allocation.