PPP plans to table legislation to prevent non-disclosure

first_img…of contracts and agreements in the petroleum sectorThe parliamentary Opposition has plans to table legislation that would seek to create some greater level of transparency and accountability in the petroleum sector, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoJagdeo stated that he has met with officials of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Open Society Foundation, seeking their assistance to table these pieces of legislation in Parliament.The former Head of State noted that the idea is to have oil companies and Government become more transparent in their transactions and for them to account to the people of Guyana.“Any money from any oil company… and that the Minister of Finance will have one week or two weeks to gazette the receipt and within a month must notify the National Assembly…and the money is only paid to the Consolidated Fund or to the Sovereign Wealth Fund,” Jagdeo said in explaining the legislation.The former President added should any of those fail, the idea is to have laws in place that will see a 10-year jail term instituted for non-disclosure of an agreement or transaction. He feels by doing this, such incidents would not be allowed to happen again and companies would also have an obligation too.“If they (companies) don’t notice that they made a payment to the Ministry and they don’t see it in the public domain….these companies will be obligated to disclose,” he explained, adding that the PPP was hoping to draft legislation for tabling in Parliament along those lines.“That will immediately solve a lot of these issues. So, both the company will have to say it, and the Minister of Finance. And there is a huge penalty particularly for the Minister of Finance, who has a fiduciary duty in case that is not done. That is what we hope to have some time,” he further added.However, the Opposition Leader noted that his Party was still looking for drafters while explaining that there were not many skilled persons available to put together such legislation. “… but that is one … there are four pieces of legislation surrounding transparency issues that I am thinking about tabling … in the future,” he noted.Jagdeo noted that this will be able to safeguard Guyana from experiencing issues of bribery and money laundering especially in relation to the petroleum sector. This sector will most likely attract greater level of investments over the next few years, starting in 2020, when oil production is expected to begin.Signing bonusIn December 2017, Government had denied receiving an advance payment from US oil giant ExxonMobil of US$18 million. However, a leaked document that was seen by this newspaper proved that the Administration was fully aware of receiving the signing bonus granted by the same company, as a request was also made to open an account at the central bank.The allegation about Government receiving this bonus was first made by Chartered Accountant and Attorney Christopher Ram. Ram had said that this payment may be one of the reasons why Government was not disclosing the new contract between itself and the US oil giant. Government had failed to disclose that it had received the money since 2016 and place it into the Consolidated Fund.Government later brushed aside allegations that it possibly spent or transferred the US$18 million signing bonus it received from ExxonMobil, claiming that there was nothing sinister about that move. Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman did not confirm nor deny allegations that the signing bonus might have been transferred from a private account at the central bank, or spent. The Minister did reiterate that the monies were put aside to deal with a specific matter.Government had defended its actions saying that the money was placed at the Bank of Guyana, since Government intended to use it to pay the legal team that would represent Guyana’s interest at the World Court regarding the border controversy with its western neighbour Venezuela.The matter is being challenged by Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall. Nandlall is contending that Government is in “breach of and contrary to, the letter and spirit of Article 216 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana and Section 38 (1) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, Chapter 73:02.” (Samuel Sukhnandan)last_img read more