The response of Dr Indarjit Ramdass, of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fails to address the EPA contravention of the EP Act 1996 (‘The EPA’s procedure for the registration of consultants have been long established’ SN, May 17). His attempt to place the responsibility for the prevailing situation at the doorstep of the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) validates his absence of knowledge of the EP Act 1996. These, when coupled with several misrepresentations in his response, in addition to calling his motives further into question, attest to the reality that he is ill suited to serve as the Executive Director of the EPA.
The EP Act 1996 states, “In the exercise of its functions the Agency shall (a) compile and amend from time to time with the assistance of internationally recognized environmental groups a list of approved persons who have the qualifications and experience to carry out environmental impact assessment”. The act clearly establishes that the list must only be compiled after assistance is provided by an internationally recognized environmental group(s). There is no stipulation in the EP Act, as claimed by Dr Ramdass, that the EPA may approach internationally recognized environmental group(s). Dr Ramdass must identify the internationally recognized environmental group(s) which provided assistance to compile the list if his intent is to demonstrate the legality of the EPA action. He cannot respond appropriately to this issue since this was never done.
Dr Ramdass’s ignorance related to the EP Act 1996 is further compounded by his attempt to link the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) to this illegal act. The Third Schedule of the EP Act, 1996 clearly stipulates the role of the EAB. It does not grant the EAB the authority claimed by Dr Ramdass. If he chooses to dispute this, he must clearly identify the clause in the Third Schedule of the EP Act 1996 which grants authority to the EAB to circumvent the law.
Dr Ramdass further attempts to justify the contravention of the act by claiming that I served on the EAB when this illegal procedure was developed. This is false. The Third Schedule of the EP Act, 1996 grants no such authority to the EAB and I was never a party to what Dr Ramdass refers to as “operational of these stipulations”. He can counter my assertion by simply placing the minutes of all meetings of the EAB to which I was a party in the public domain.
Dr Ramdass’s lack of understanding of the intent of the EP Act 1996 is clearly evident in his statement, “It is important to note that the EPA does not deny anyone the opportunity to register. Consultants register of their own free will and determination that they are qualified in their area of expertise and are competent to undertake the necessary environmental studies”. His attempt to substitute “their own free will and [their] determination that they are qualified… studies” fails to adhere to the legally mandated requirement that internationally recognized environmental groups evaluate and approve persons placed on that list. His statement further evidences the fact that no evaluation is conducted to determine the capacity of persons (firms) on the list maintained by the EPA. He has simply substituted payment of US$15.00 and “their own free will and [their] determination that they are qualified… studies” as the basis for the compilation of the list. This is evidently fraught with possibilities of corruption since inclusion on the list is not dictated by qualifications and experience as intended by the EP Act 1996.
The fact that the EPA procedure has long been established is no more legal than was the long established withholding of funds from the Contingency Fund. The Government of Guyana has seen it fit to correct the latter. The EPA must correct the former to ensure adherence to the law. Alternatively Dr Ramdass must provide legal justification for the EPA breach of the intent of the EP Act 1996.
Charles P Ceres