By Patricia Bacchus
The restructuring of the Guyana Office for Investment commenced in 2015 with a thorough assessment of the agency’s management structure, systems of internal control and governance and the effectiveness in the discharge of its mandate. Arising from this exercise over the last two years, a number of implements have been put in place to elevate the functionality and effectiveness of the agency and to ensure that investors receive quality investment facilitative services. On behalf of the Members of the Board of GO-Invest, it is my pleasure to share with you some of these initiatives.
One of the earliest strategies relate to the composition of the agency’s board, in light of the fact that the agency was once intended to be a one-stop shop for investments, but was never legally mandated to operate this way. The Minister of Business recognized that one measure that could ensure better coordination of investment facilitation and export promotion was to constitute the board with members selected from the government agencies and ministries involved in export and investment processes.
As a result of this, the agency now has board members who are senior employees of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Guyana Lands and Survey Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministries of Natural Resources, Public Infrastructure and Presidency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Foreign Trade Depart-ment) and the private sector. Such a composition fosters a well-informed approach to policy and governance, elevated inter-agency collaboration and efficient problem solving. Another milestone for the agency has been the design and implementation of standardized tools to facilitate applications for investment agreements.
The Expression of Interest form was designed to cater to applications for investment agreements (both new and renewed), and clearly stipulates the information and various disclosures required to be made when applying to the agency. This form has been uploaded to the agency’s website, along with a number of other forms, tools and resources that are relevant to investing in Guyana. Another tool implemented for use by the agency is the lodgment receipt which evinces proof of submission and is provided to investors upon the agency’s receipt of their completed Expression of Interest form. This system enables a higher level of management and accountability for applications received by the agency.
In this regard, it is imperative to highlight the requirement now in place for all investment officers of GO-Invest to sign legally enforceable confidentiality agreements so as to ensure that details of an investor’s proposal or intended project is held in the strictest confidence. Recognizing the resource limitations as it relates to enforcement of an investor’s responsibility under the investment agreement, and in an effort to ensure a proactive approach to any issue that may arise, the agency has put in place a mandatory Progress Report form which is required to be completed and submitted by the investor during the third quarter after receiving a signed investment agreement. This provides the opportunity for GO-Invest to monitor project implementation and to be acquainted with any issue which has, or may occasion delays to the investor, even assisting in amicable and efficient resolution where the circumstances allow.
The organizational structure of the agency has also been critically assessed, with resulting decisions taken to ensure that vital resources are recruited to ensure the satisfaction of the agency’s mandate, and that staff members are provided sufficient training to enable the highest levels of functionality and professionalism. In this regard it is imperative to note the recruitment of CEO Owen Verwey in 2016 and Deputy CEO Natalia Seepersaud in 2017, both of whom bring a wealth of knowledge, professionalism and capacity to the agency.
The restructuring of the agency remains a work in progress under the leadership of the Minister of Business and the Board of Directors.
Our assessment of the agency’s fulfillment of its mandate and the quality of service provided will continue, with the necessary remedial and other actions taken in a timely manner. We encourage you to utilize the services offered by GO-Invest and to continue to provide us with your invaluable feedback so that we can continue to make positive changes.
Patricia Bacchus is Chairperson of GO-Invest