After months of silence on the number of local companies from which ExxonMobil has purchased goods and services, the US oil corporation says that the onus is on the government to release the information and to demonstrate to its citizenry that it is holding its contractors accountable.
While not identifying the companies, Exxon has said that it utilised the services of 309 local suppliers last year. And for the first quarter of this year alone, it has said it utilised some 227 local suppliers. It has also estimated that some US$14 million has been spent on local contractors.
“ExxonMobil submits the list of companies to the government on a quarterly basis. It is the responsibility of the government to hold its contractors, including ExxonMobil, accountable,” ExxonMobil’s Public and Government Affairs Advisor Kimberly Brasington told Sunday Stabroek.
“The government can verify the list and or attest to the public that we do in fact submit the data to the government. Or the government can choose to disclose the list,” Brasington added.
With growing concerns about how government intends to address the issue of local content coupled with Exxon’s declarations about the number of local companies it did business with last year, there has been public pressure for the release of the names of the companies.
“When I saw the numbers I was skeptical at first because it sounded very high. Don’t get me wrong: If it is true that is just simply wonderful news for this country but we need to see who these companies are first before we go celebrating,” Chairman of the Guyana Oil and Gas Energy Chamber Manniram Prashad told this newspaper.
“How do we know what they say is true?” he further questioned.
Following a meeting with World Bank officials last month, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman had said that he did not know why Exxon had not released the names of the companies given that many locals are benefitting.
He would later make the list a part of the dossier of documents he took to a Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources meeting last month but was stopped from making it public by Chairman of the Committee and People’s Progressive Party/Civic executive, Odinga Lumumba.
During the meeting, APNU+AFC parliamentarian Audwin Rutherford, following up on the issue of local content, asked Trotman if government knew how many local companies were utilised by the oil major.
Trotman was quick to respond in the affirmative, before adding that he was also prepared to share the list with the press.
Lumumba, however, said that such a question should be asked of Exxon and not government.
He then informed that Exxon had been asked to attend a meeting with the committee and was scheduled to do so later in the month. The meeting has since been rescheduled to the first week of July, due to scheduling conflicts.
Trotman told reporters following the committee meeting that the list would be made available after the committee’s members had received a copy.
Nothing to hide
Exxon has said that it has nothing to hide and all of its transactions are above board and within the remit of the law.
Brasington stressed that it takes the issue of building local content “seriously” and has demonstrated its commitment through action and capacity building here.
“We want Guyanese suppliers to be a part of the industry. Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited, ExxonMobil’s affiliate in Guyana, and its contractors continue to expand local content efforts through supplier utilisation,” Brasington said.
“In 2017, ExxonMobil Guyana and its contractors together utilised 348 Guyanese registered suppliers. 309 of those are Guyanese owned. The remaining 39 are foreign/ CARICOM-owned, locally registered. Many of the 309 entities mentioned are part of the supply chain, or the ‘knock-on effect’ of the industry…The most recent data from the first quarter local supplier list includes companies that are Guyanese registered and owned that were utilised by ExxonMobil and our contractors during the first quarter of 2018. In the first quarter alone, ExxonMobil activities utilised 262 suppliers registered in Guyana – 227 Guyanese-owned and 35 foreign/CARICOM-owned, locally registered suppliers,” she added, while noting that US$14 million was spent on local suppliers.
Brasington also explained that there is not scope for her company here to offer many direct employment opportunities but the spin off effect from the larger companies it hires provides room for local jobs.
“The direct opportunities with ExxonMobil are relatively small in number, compared to the larger scale when you look at the entire picture of contractors working to support ExxonMobil’s operations in Guyana,” she pointed out.
“For example, the Guyana Shore Base Inc. is a direct contractor to ExxonMobil in Guyana. The Guyana Shore Base then goes out and utilises local companies to do things such as complete civil work and construct pipe racks, which all gets rolled up and reported. For further context, Guyanese suppliers provide a wide range of services, including catering, security, transportation, housing, communications, legal, IT,” she added.
For now, Brasington said ExxonMobil does not want to be the party making public its local content information as it pertains to companies hired for services and says that it is best for the people that such information come from its leaders. “At this point, I have to leave it to the discretion of the government to decide if it is in the best interest of the people to have that list published in the paper,” he added.