Government is seeking to bring the local mining sector under a greater measure of international scrutiny by subscribing to standards set out in the internationally renowned Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Natural Resources and Environ-ment Minister Robert Persaud told the Stabroek Business earlier this week.
“Very soon we will be advertising for a scoping study to be done so as to create the groundwork for adherence to the norms of the EITI,” Persaud said.
The EITI is an international standard that seeks to ensure transparency in countries’ oil,
gas and mineral resources. Established in 2002, the institution is overseen by a coalition of governments, companies, civil society, investors and international organisations. It is one of a number of oversight initiatives identified in the World Bank’s governance and anti-corruption strategy. Through the EITI, the bank supports country programmes on extractive industry reform, natural resources management and anti-corruption. When implemented, the EITI goes further towards ensuring higher levels of transparency in how countries’ natural resources are governed and commits countries to full disclosure of state revenues from the extractive sectors. The announcement that government may be readying itself to subscribe fully to EITI standards comes in the wake of continued complaints of ‘kickbacks’ and ‘backhanders’ in the gold-mining sector, some of which, Persaud said had been found to be valid.
At the local level, Persaud said, his ministry is currently mulling the setting up of an investigative department within the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to address internal issues relating to honesty and integrity.
He confirmed that complaints had indeed reached the ministry regarding “shakedowns, getting officers to look the other way and preferential treatment in the gold-mining sector”. He said based on investigations that have been made and issues brought to his attention, matters pertaining to honesty and integrity among official functionaries had indeed given cause for concern. “In fact we have had situations in which, based on investigations, persons would have had to face the stipulated consequences. We are continuing to put a lot of premium on that,” Persaud added. And according to the minister, while some of the complaints of corrupt practices have been found to have validity some others have not reached the stage of investigation. “That is why we have decided to create an Investigation Department within the GGMC itself,” Persaud said.
The GGMC currently has an inspectorate manned by two senior military officers and the idea is to build the inspectorate into an Investigation Department.
And while the minister provided no time frame for the creation of the new department he said his ministry was currently examining “models” that could help inform the structure of the new department.
Additionally, Persaud said that the ministry was also examining some of the legal issues that it might have to get around in the process of seeking to set up the new department. During a recent meeting with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) President Donald Ramotar had alluded to the importance of honesty and integrity among state functionaries charged with overseeing the enforcement of regulations in the mining sector.