The Guyana Energy Agency is being run reasonably well

Dear Editor,

I seek your indulgence to present to the public a response to the articles regarding the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), which appeared in the September 11 and 12 editions of the Kaieteur News, viz, ‘GEA handles US$350 million in fuel, submits questionable financial statements – Christopher Ram’; ‘AFC wants GEA thoroughly investigated ‒ Ram should be awarded the Order of Excellence -Khemraj Ramjattan’

These articles have little substance but much conjecture and suggestions, and seem intended to create (or perhaps, to suffer from) confusion and illusions of corruption. As Minister responsible for the operations of the electricity and energy sector, I sense a need and a duty to set the record straight, dispel any erroneous concerns and doubts, and assure the majority of our Guyanese people, as well as others, that the GEA is being run reasonably well, as well as any other corporate body in Guyana, whether publicly or privately-owned, in the context of Guyana today.

I acknowledge that the GEA was many years late in beginning to have reports for tabling in the National Assembly. Currently, the GEA is in possession of its audited accounts and reports up to 2012 audited by the Audit Office of Guyana, which will be tabled in the National Assembly soon after sittings are resumed in October. Further, I can state that as of now, GEA is in compliance with all of the relevant reporting requirements, which include the Companies Act of Guyana and the International Financial Reporting Standards.

Concerning whether an Annual Report, or just an Audited Financial Statement, is to be tabled in the National Assembly, we maintain that Section 30 of the Guyana Energy Agency Act speaks to Audited Financial Statements. Further, that section prescribes that the Minister determines what level of detail any other report accompanying same should include. For those who are really interested in learning what the GEA is doing, there is a lot of information provided throughout the year on the GEA website, various press releases and press conferences, our Budget presentations, and also in GEA appearances before the relevant sector committees of the National Assembly.

Mr Ram has failed to disclose that, on enquiring, he had been provided with a summary of the works and the draft Strategic Plan of the GEA. Notwithstanding the large amount of information available through the various avenues at all times, we recognize the convenience in tabling in the National Assembly, a complete Annual Report for the GEA, which would include the Audited Financial Statement, and indeed, we would so do in the future.

Concerning fuel imports, since about the 1980s, much consideration has been given to the question regarding the role of the GEA in the arrangements by which Guyana has been acquiring all of its petroleum fuel, taking into account the role of GEA’s predecessor, the GNRA, whether as trader, in principal, or as an agent. Finally, the auditors, at that time, recommended the treatment and presentation, which is reflected in the Annual Financial Reports. GEA accepted and complied with that ruling, and has had the impression that whilst other auditors might have required that these transactions be represented differently, either way is acceptable.

I am not aware that Mr Ram has raised any question of any substance about the financial statements of the GEA. Mr Ramjattan’s words in the article of Thursday September 12, with little substance, try to be even more suggestive in talking about GEA handling a whopping US$350 million of the national transactions. He could have been kind and could have commended the GEA for efficiently and effectively handling such large transactions, and at minimal cost. He could have accepted the auditor’s clean report rather than speak of the allegation, as he claims, of someone who has passed on and is not here to speak for himself.

Whilst the GEA, itself, could well have presented my arguments thus far, I certainly needed to speak to the questions about the members of the boards and some of the senior management of the GEA and GPL.

To be specific, I need to respond to Mr Ramjattan’s talk about a “sultanate running these institutions,” “without checks and balances from independent scrutineers.” The make-up of boards is quite rational and in accord with the acts, articles and common practice.

Section 18(2) of the GEA Act dictates that the board shall comprise—

(a)   a CEO of the agency;

(b)  a DCEO of the agency;

(c)   any additional number of persons not exceeding five, as may be appointed by the minister.

It has been our government’s practice to include, among the additional five members on GEA’s Board, the following persons:

1)  the CEO or some such person from GPL;

2)  a representative from the private sector;

3)  a nominee from the leader of the opposition.

There has not been any, and there is no, intention to keep secret the names of the members of any board. Indeed, our HPS reads out those names at his regular post-cabinet meeting press briefings. Mr Ram chose to charge “severe gaps in the Agency’s governance arrangements with the identities of the Directors a matter of secrecy,” rather than to reveal that he had been duly informed that there was one more person to be named for the new board and that the full list, once completed, would be made available to him.

With respect to the GPL Board, it is quite the practice that someone from the parent company, in this case NICIL, should be on the board, and even be the chairman. There is nothing unusual, therefore, in Mr Winston Brassington, the CEO of NICIL, being chairman of the subsidiary, GPL. Nothing unusual either in our practice of appointing the CEO of GEA to the Board of GPL, since GEA, holding the mandate for energy, is required to have insight into electricity. Further, with a vacancy on the new Board of GPL our government took the opportunity last July to appoint a nominee of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Cammie Ramsaroop, to the Board of GPL.

The allegation that there is neither independent scrutiny nor transparency, at the level of the Boards of the GEA and the GPL can thus be, and is here and now, refuted. True, the one director nominated by the Leader of the Opposition would not be able to determine the decisions of the board, but is in a position to know of all the considerations and discussions of the board.

I think that Mr Ramjattan, with the knowledge we all have, was unkind in referring to an incestuous relationship, in the fact that the CEO of the GEA is married to the DCEO of NICIL.

Both Dr Mahender Sharma and Mrs Marcia Nadir-Sharma began their careers as unmarried persons in the GEA and NICIL respectively. When I had heard that they were getting married, I thought it was refreshing in that their fathers, being leaders of different political parties, did not get in the way. They have each worked diligently in their respective jobs and have been duly promoted in recognition of their proficiency in their respective areas.

Mr Ramjattan and Kaieteur News know that theirs is not the case, if there ever was one, of the government finding a husband and wife team somewhere and plunking them down in two jobs. They started out separately, and worked diligently in earning their way upward.

We have a relatively small population, and as such, the chances are greater that related persons may end up in positions where potential questions of conflict of interest may arise. The answer is not to snipe at selected cases, but to work to set up general rules which would be adequate, practical, well known and consistently applied across our society.

This response has taken a few hours of my time; I would have much preferred to spend my time bringing Amaila into being.

Yours faithfully,
Samuel A A Hinds
Prime Minister & Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Energy

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