Transparency Institute Guyana Incorporated (TIGI) President Troy Thomas has told Stabroek News that he finds the recent ministerial visit to ExxonMobil’s headquarters reminiscent of the 2016 mayoral visit to Mexico in relation to parking meters which was paid for by Smart City Solutions (SCS).
In an invited comment Thomas noted that while TIGI has not formally discussed the ministers’ visit to Houston, Texas they have definitely noted it as “interesting”
According to statement from ExxonMobil a delegation of Government Ministers from Guyana was hosted at its Campus in Houston, Texas on August 10 and 11. The delegation included Carl Greenidge, Raphael Trotman, Winston Jordan, David Patterson and Dominic Gaskin. Also present was Presidential Advisor, Dr. Jan Mangal, and two Technical Officers, Teresa Gaime and Kiran Mattai, of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Energy Agency respectively.
ExxonMobil said that the meetings provided exploration, project development and local content updates among other capacity building and technical trainings hosted by officials of the ExxonMobil Development Co. and Exxon-Mobil Gas and Power Marketing Co.
Minister of Public Infra-structure David Patterson has since explained that the Ministers travel and accommodation was paid for by ExxonMobil. He stressed that though some would believe that the ministers are influenced by having the company pay for their travel and accommodation this is not the case.
Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin in a letter published in yesterday’s Stabroek News also noted that whether a team from Guyana travels up [to Houston] or a team from ExxonMobil travels down [to Guyana] makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things since, as long as the company pays for this travel the costs will be added to the cost of the project to be recovered down-the-line anyway.
He further explained that there are benefits to occasionally meeting at the company’s headquarters where there is access to human and technical resources which allow for a more thorough briefing than those held in Guyana.
Thomas noted that TIGI is “behind the news cycle” on the issue but still maintained that having a foreign company pay for the travel of policymakers in general is interesting and compromises objectivity.
“From all indications governments such as ours have reason to be guarded in their dealings with oil companies such as Exxon,” he said, adding that if the visit was truly technical in nature then a technical report should exist and needs to be made public.
“It is perhaps time to renew our call to have the contract with ExxonMobil as well as all other agreements and reports on Guyana’s dealings with this company be made public. It is definitely something Guyanese should be interested in,” Thomas said.