Integrity, expertise & not political connections criteria for NRF Board – Pres. Ali

- Possible for int’l expert to be appointed

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A new Board of Directors is being proposed to manage Guyana’s Natural Resources Fund (NRF) and President Dr. Irfaan Ali says that the members appointed will be people of integrity, who possess the necessary expertise to manage an oil wealth fund.

While responding to questions from the News Room on Friday, the President said that he has not yet identified any individual who will be appointed to this management Board.

He, however, emphasised that appointments will be made in keeping with the provisions of the proposed amendments to the NRF Act.

As per the amendments, a Board of Directors is being proposed as part of efforts to distance the management of the fund from ministerial influence. As such, no Member of Parliament can be part of this Board.

It has been proposed that the directors shall be selected from among persons who have “wide experience and ability in legal, financial, business or administrative matters.” One Director shall be nominated by the National Assembly and another from the private sector.

The President said that this was done to explicitly remove the “overpowering hand” of the Finance Minister, as per the existing NRF Act.

Under the existing Act, the minister has exclusive power for the overall management of the Fund, including preparation and approval of its Investment Mandate, preparation of the operational agreement with the Bank of Guyana. The minister is also able to determine the economically and fiscally sustainable amount that can be withdrawn from the Fund.

When asked if the appointment of a Board of Directors will facilitate greater bipartisan management of the oil fund, the President contended that there will be no direct political influence.

“It does not come from a political party or political parties but that makes up the local and international community and are persons we can safely say have the experience, the integrity to deal with this,” President Ali told the News Room at the sidelines of an event at East Bank Berbice.

Importantly, the Bill with the proposed amendments does not specify that the Directors must be Guyanese. And so, with the President’s comment, it appears as though it is possible for an international expert to be appointed to the Board.

The Bill, however, states: “The directors shall be selected from among persons who have wide experience and ability in legal, financial, business or administrative matters…”

Meanwhile, the President was also asked whether there will be consultations on the appointment of the Board. His response was that all appointments will be made in accordance with the NRF Act.

According to the proposed amendments, the Board of Directors of the Fund shall include three to five members, who will be appointed by the President.

While addressing an event at the Bramfield, Region Six (East Berbice- Corentyne), Dr. Ali addressed some concerns raised over appointments that will be made once the amendments are passed in the National Assembly.

“The people of this country went to a poll and they placed their confidence in a President, in a government, are you saying that after the people placed that confidence, that we don’t have the right or we can’t be trusted to name people on a Board?” he asked a gathering of Berbicians.

As per the proposed amendments, these directors shall be appointed for a period not exceeding two years but they will be eligible for reappointment. Appointments must be published widely, in the Official Gazette, online and in two daily newspapers.

The President also emphasised that all of the proposed amendments of the Bill would have Parliamentary oversight because the spending of the oil revenues require Parliamentary oversight.

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