TRANSPARENCY NO LONGER AN OPTION FOR GUYANA

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The six thousand, three hundred and sixty eight page Guyana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Report, EITI, tells major parts of the story.

When it was first a talking point between Prime Minister Sam Hinds and Dr. Francisco Paris on May 4 2010, it was more out of the politics of necessity because Guyana, a gift and grant recipient of socio-economic largesse pegged to civil propriety, was behaving badly and had become an inductee into the Corruption Hall of Infamy ranking 117 of 158 countries with a 2.5 out of 10 Corruption Perception Index and a confidence range of 2.0-2.7 out of 10.

It was thug stuff.  And enrolling in Transparency International Behavior School was insurance to keep the assistance coming.

The slow walk to propriety may have been to sweep some droppings under the rug because it wasn’t until May15th 2012 that the Memorandum of Understanding for transparency was finally signed; by which time Guyana was in full blown corruption with a 37 point ‘gain’ from 96 in 2008 to 133.

But just as Bharat will forever be known as the the architect of Guyana’s Corruption Index’s descent to the bottom, as he remained fastened in place until the 2015 Election Gods smiled on the country and granted reprieve from that state of lawlessness by slim a margin of defiance, history will remind us that the Coalition had been in the Opposition, in whole or in part, for the 23 years that the PPP ran the country with questionable eptitude and unquestionable culpability, observing the government’s transformation into a criminal empire and the devolution of national psyche into a dependence on a culture of corruption.

So, they were expected to ascend to leadership with a viable plan primed to yield positive anti-corruption results and in a definitive time frame.

And Forensic Audits were the magic words.

All the contracts that seemed to create imperialism through massive Chinese holdings and extensive commerce that employed, predominantly if not exclusive Chinese labour, could be revisited and the implementation of contract transparency could have explained the Russian dominance in diamond and gold extraction; the Oleg Deripaska Rusal contract that intermittently operated for 14 years while falling consistently short of its contracted local employee quota and the environmental protection agreement could be examined along with how Rusal was still allowed to operate after unilaterally changing the agreement to make employees independent contractors in order to avoid payments to National Insurance Scheme-NIS ; plus the 2003 visits between Deripaska and Jagdeo to talk investment of USD 1 billion, a 10 million phase study, signing of MOU  and a lot of things that never moved Guyana past being amongst the poorest in the hemisphere…

…lot’s to flesh out here. 

And the land thing – where Oleg bought 4.7 acres of land in Liliendaal identified as “Given to the government of Guyana via deed of gift dated 27-05-2003 by the Guyana Sugar Corporation Ltd” valued at $340 million by Rodrigues Architects sold by NICIL to Deripaska for $150 million and recorded in the sale book as $112 million only.

Look.

Nobody was surprised that all this finagling with money and theft and corruption was reportedly directed by the President Jagdeo.

But the failure to fund and/or properly implement the promised Forensic Audits to yield obvious results disappoint many looking at headlines that read: “Guyana Probes Offshore Oil Leases Controlled by Exxon, Tullow”.

That title confirms that the President and the Coalition Government, for all of its promises, remained culpably incurious after their election. And this scramble to audit and at this 59th minute of a potential expiration date for this government, quite frankly, registers elation at the lower end of the glad spectrum.

The EITI Report’s ‘Guyana Timeline’ (pg 8) asserts that the Coalition took over knowing all that is mentioned above but did not rekindle the transparency obligation it inherited until December 2015 , did not make a full commitment until Feb 2017 and became a candidate member only in Dec 2017.

We anticipated a greater sense of urgency…even impatience.

The back story of oil Blocks, Canje, Kaieteur , Orinduik being awarded right before the election should have been enough to begin an investigation on that act alone.

Ramotar has excused that in his statement “I know it looks suspicious but I thought we would have won the elections anyhow and that it was just the continuation of an already started process from 2013.”

The government went into PROROGATION on November 10th 2014 !

NOTHING should have been signed!

Ramotar signed these things in April 2015!

Elections were in May 2015!

Talk about Constitutional Violations and with bare face!

Yet the Forensic Audits, the few that were done, FAILED to ascribe accountability or make any recovery and according to their- Coalition’s- own Minister they lacked the professional expertise needed to execute Forensic Auditing.

The outpouring of offers to help from across the Diaspora of Guyanese that had been backhandedly rebuffed by this Administration are now among its wakeful nightmares of administrative shortfalls and political deficits.

They had the help. They refused it.

Continuing with the cavalier delivery of his “nothing sinister” confession, Ramotar casually discussed a contract signed between Guyana and JHI and Associates Inc. , Ratio Energy Limited and Ratio Guyana Limited.
The companies were manned by executives fired from Canadian Oil and Gas Exploration, CGX John Cullen and Edris Kamal Dookie ,a feature player in the now infamous Panama Papers. JHI, formed exclusively to ‘explore’ Guyana’s  oil, was established in 2014. Mid Atlantic Oil and Gas was incorporated in 2013 with Executives Fazal Hussein of Trinidad, Nicholas Chuck a Sang (since left) replaced by Glenn Roland Low-A-Chee.

Just a lil coincidence, man..

Ramotar told the story like a man who knew that – irrespective of the Constitutional Obligations built in to his function, any abdication of duty that he committed, any laws that he may have tread on during his tenure – he could have given an honest recount of his involvement in breaking obvious law.

Me? Worry? The whole Forensic Audit thing was a charade anyway.

Immunity was assured because this Government had already demonstrated its timidity in going after accountability.

We may want to ponder, at this point, why Mid Atlantic Oil and Gas, minted in 2013 expressly to service Guyana’s oil, has since been decreed by Parliamentary order- in 2018, three years into Coalition government by Finance Minister Jordan– as being entitled to all and the same tax concessions as Exxon…a much older and known company in the business.

AHEM.

And this EITI report, though it tells major parts of the story, has not become a political household abbreviation ..maybe by design.

The information contained in this thing makes it as much of the the bible for the nation’s patrimony as it does an indictment of the cavalier transactioneering by Politicians who can guarantee the lethargy and incuriosity of the electorate that put them in place.

Oil is the hot topic right now but what should be equally as important is the number of acres of gold and diamonds and other precious metals that have been leased to people in Government and their circle and the revenue that these leases are not yielding.

Reading this report confirms why Civic Society has to be more than religious bodies touting heavenly kingdoms, more than fragments of political entities fighting ideological causes.

The electorate has to be informed of why they vote, educated on what a government does and made to understand that the government is elected to serve the entire country and all of its people.

This is where Civic Society should come in – to break politics into bite size pieces for electorate consumption.

We don’t know what mechanism exists for Government to solicit the assistance of Civic Society but one should be designed and in short order.

One thing that is sickeningly worrisome in this report is that the abbreviation NC..Not Communicated , is found way too often in columns labeled Identity of Beneficial Ownership, Nationality of Owner, Country of Residence, Number of shares and similar blocks of statistics, to offer comfort.

Not communicating salient bits of information on contracts that involve patrimony should never be permitted as a matter of law. The Practice sits too close to fraud.

And, as unease about the flimsy returns on questionably negotiated contracts with the oil giants remains prevalent in the minds of those looking for a better deal, there is still broad opinion that they should be revisited…like they have been in a multiplicity of countries.

Every Government has a responsibility to do more than just score a win in its Party’s column for the development of national interest. The mission must be to get the full value of its resources.

It’s a standard negotiating tug of war tactic and the extracting company will always try to get more for what they are spending by forcing the host country into a cesspool of concessions, banking on its negotiating unsophisticatedness.  

They’ll threaten to leave but they never do. The anticipated billions of barrels have already been communicated to their shareholders and prospective investors. Their bottom line is money. The Government’s should be too…in cash and in kind.

So Clive Thomas’ announcement of State Asset Recovery Unit probing the Kaieteur, Canje and Orinduik Blocks now, contracts that never made it to Forensic Audit when they had all that time since 2015, comes across as a political knee jerk on the eve of election – a reaction that scientists have demonstrated never involve the brain but is an impulse that jumps from one nerve to the next.

Nerve one, we’re concluding, is Jan Mangal’s constant reference to the lack of gravitas of exploration companies gifted blocks and contracts for extraction of the nation’s oil, his warning to stay away from Exxon -friendly service companies, his advice to keep Jagdeo away from the Oil, and his call for civic society to demand more transparency from Government; which seems to support speculation about why the government chose a more malleable person not remotely qualified in oil and gas extraction, to replace him as Government Advisor heading the Department of Energy.

Nerve two, we’re thinking, is Clive Thomas’s search for the truth on the eve of election…which has a better chance of dying on the vine if the Coalition fails to be reelected.

Nerve three is that this Administration has not made an official announcement of the availability of this report …in keeping with the transparency they pledged by memorializing its intent in their Manifesto.

Why would they not advertise the critical content of this EITI report paid for by taxpayers is curious but admittedly expected.

There’s this analogy that keeps leaping out in the midst of this mess…and it’s from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Wonderland indeed … we all have this dream that our native land will see repair….

The Dodo was the genius that advised those wet from their tears to run a CAUCUS RACE to dry themselves off. There was no order to the running, so they started when they wanted to and stopped just as abruptly. Then the Dodo would declare the race over and the runners, now not as wet, would crowd around him, asking who had won.

Well, since there was no start or finish, it was difficult to determine who had won.

So Dodo would declare “everyone has won and all must have prizes” …because it was never about the race but about making the wet dry and the discomfited comfortable through the distraction of contrived competition….

…there’s a lil more but for the purpose of my analogy the comparison stops here.

Even if Jagdeo were a political genius – and let’s concede he’s at the southern and posterior of such a being – he couldn’t have mapped this out better.

In appealing to the reptilian parts of the MP that brought the country to the Caribbean Court of Justice, he has opened up lanes that were mere musings about six months ago.

And now, like Wonderland, this impending election comes bearing prizes for everyone, especially with the opportunity for smaller parties to join the race and possibly pick up a few seats in Parliament.

If the choice now for Guyana is between shooting itself in the head or the foot, I’ll submit that the wrong question is being asked.

It has become demonstrably obvious that this election is all about the oil, about one Party’s quest to control its revenues and one leader’s obsession with becoming the controller of these monies.

So, the question should be who do Guyanese want to control their patrimony, now that it is exponentially greater than it ever has been–

–a leader and a Party with a solid track record of reducing the nation to unenviable levels of social stigma, leaving it as one of the poorest nations in its hemisphere while massive amounts of its patrimony were negotiated away with no returns to the people–

or a Party and a Leader with less blemish and less diabolical intent; which would make selecting a candidate a comparatively easier task.

The answer should be based on keeping the criminals, with the collective core of a single crappo and the misplaced sense that government and its treasury are their inheritance, away from areas that they have left as ignominious failures.

The opportunity to revamp the political ecosystem is at hand.

Let prizes for everyone be meaningful this time.





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