Trotman’s power on Petroleum Commission to be reduced

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By Bibi Khatoon

Moves will be made to reduce the powers of the Minister of Natural Resources under the Petroleum Commission Bill.

Minister Raphael Trotman at a press conference on Thursday, January 25, 2018, said this decision was taken following widespread comments and criticisms in Guyana and abroad about the powers which will be vested in the Minister under the Bill.

One of the concerns raised was the provisions in the Bill for the Minister to appoint a Chairman and the provision for him to act as Chair if he fails to make an appointment. The Bill also allows the Minister to appoint the Deputy Chair and Secretary to the Board.

According to the Bill, the Minister may give general directions to the Commission to enable it to discharge its functions, including; the size of the establishment, the employment of staff and the terms and conditions of employment, the provision of equipment and use of funds. It notes that “the Commission shall comply with such directions.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat and other international bodies had assisted in drafting the proposed legislation, which is currently in a Special Select Committee of the Parliament.

“I have no desire to hold power,” Minister Trotman told reporters.

The Bill has 51 Clauses and paves the way for the creation of the Petroleum Commission that will have the responsibility for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the policies, laws and agreements for petroleum operations.

Trotman explained that Bill was modelled from the legislation governing all semi-autonomous agencies under his Ministry but he feels it should be addressed because “petroleum is seen as a national matter and could be a potentially divisive one.”

“I am going to be asking the sub-committee [Special Select Committee] at a meeting this afternoon for it [Petroleum Commission Bill] to be further amended…so that we can, in fact, incorporate some of the worthwhile suggestions which have come to us…particularly the area of the devolution of powers from the Minister and to make it perhaps larger and more inclusive,” Trotman told reporters.

The Commission provides for seven persons from the civil society, academia and the Parliamentary Opposition. However, the suggestion is to have the numbers increased to possibly three from each.

He explained that after his meeting with the Committee, he will need to put to Cabinet the amendments which he wishes to pursue.

“I anticipate that Cabinet will say yes. I can then work out a process with the Clerk of the National Assembly how to either withdraw what is in Parliament or to add amendments to it –the Clerk will advise,” Trotman noted.

The Bill was tabled in the National Assembly in June 2017.

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