Civil society members of transparency initiative criticise gov’t over secret bonus

Civil society representatives from the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) of the Guyana Extractive Industries Trans-parency Initiative (GY-EITI) have restated their commitment to transparency and accountability and called the government out on their blunder over the secret signing bonus from ExxonMobil.

A source told Stabroek News yesterday that at a meeting between the executive body of the GY-EITI and representatives from Civil Society, Industry and the Government which form the MSG, the representatives from Civil Society made a statement reaffirming their commitment and position on transparency and accountability.

“We believe that it wasn’t in keeping with the principles of transparency and called the government out and asked them to re-evaluate their assessment of what transparency really means. We reminded them that the resources of Guyana are for the people of Guyana and pressed them to have that reflected,” the source pointed out, while explaining that the group took a collective stance to get the work done to ensure that proper systems are put in place, rather than responding to every headline in the press.

The source also pointed out that neither Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman nor the Permanent Secretary from the Natural Resources Ministry was present at the meeting, since it was held while parliament was in session.

The source emphasized that the GY-EITI is still in the “setting up phase” and while they have been approved to start their implementation, “it is a very technical and tedious process.”

“We have set up a work plan or wish list of things we want to do to ensure transparency and accountability,” the source said, while pointing out the lack of legislative measures to ensure full transparency and accountability.

“Now that we are accepted, our next task is to start ensuring that measures and legislation are put in place,” the source added, while pointing out that as ExxonMobil and the Government of Guyana stated, no laws were broken (by the payment of the bonus) and emphasized the need for proper legislation to not only ensure that the oil giants declare any financial transaction, but other companies working in the extractive industry throughout the length and breadth of Guyana”, the source said.

The source explained that they have been working diligently to operationalize and identify areas of weaknesses in various sectors such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) along with others. And while it is a very technical process they have been making significant progress.

“In other countries they have legislation in place and the work really is on the GY-EITI and the MSG to put those measures in place. It is not about ExxonMobil to make their transactions public alone, we have all these mining companies which have revenues that might exceed Exxon’s collectively,” the source added.

National Coordinator of the GY-EITI, Dr. Rudy Jadoopat, had earlier told  Stabroek News that they are encouraging the government and companies to ensure that they disclose all payments as soon as possible.

Jadoopat was questioned on the GY-EITI’s stance after Trotman had admitted that the government had concealed the signing bonus of US$18 million received from ExxonMobil since last year. Jadoopat  had said that he did not want to say anything about the signing bonus issue but noted that the GY-EITI is encouraging the government and companies to disclose payments that are being made as soon as possible.

“We would’ve found out in any case and it’s just that it is happening now but nobody can really hide these kinds of payments. I don’t think the government had any intention of hiding any payments and whether any money was received or not we do not have any documentation, we just have things that were said,” Jadoopat had stated.

When the Initiative is up and running fully, Jadoopat said that all transactions and documents pertaining to the government and companies in the extractive industry will be made available to the public.

The GY-EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group is the primary body responsible for overseeing and coordinating the implementation of the global EITI standards.

The group comprises four representatives each from the government, industry and civil society, and meets monthly.

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