With the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) intended to modernise and improve Guyana’s government systems in the long term, Dr. Francisco Paris, an EITI International Secretariat representative, says that it should be used by the citizenry to ensure both government and companies are accountable.
Paris made the declaration at the opening of a two-day capacity building workshop on Monday.
The workshop was held at Cara Lodge in Georgetown and saw participation from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and representatives of the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) of the Guyana-EITI (GYEITI).
In his address, Paris also emphasised the importance of the initiative in relation to good governance and said that it should be used to improve and modernise the current government systems.
“…The international agencies, countries and donors always say to us to don’t keep making countries provide EITI reports for the sake of EITI reports. We want the government systems to be modernised, to be structured in a way to produce these information by default and we want to improve your system, to improve your government agency capacity because this is where the change could happen over time and is sustainable,” Paris said.
He explained that the EITI is used to identify gaps and holes in the current systems and if done right there will be no need for future intervention and the energy can be used towards collection and analysation of data.
Paris further stressed that the EITI will not solve all the country’s problems in the extractive sector but should be used as a mechanism to provide information and to begin the conversation on how changes can be made.
He said that the EITI is a tool and should be used by the MSG, and the citizens by extension, to hold the government and companies accountable.
Every year, an annual report is to be submitted and recommendations will be issued and Paris said that the GYEITI will have to keep track of the country’s response to the recommendations and to constantly highlight them in their annual report even if they are not immediately addressed.
Paris co-chaired the workshop with a fellow representative of the EITI International Secretariat, Gisela Granado.
“Why are we here today? So Francisco and I have a lot of experience and we have been supporting countries from the day they signed up for the EITI to when they have been evaluated according to our EITI standards. And we thought that it was extremely important for us to come here and share with you some of the lessons that we have learnt from other implementing countries so that you can do as well as possible when it comes to your public disclosures,” Granado said, while emphasising that understanding the role of the EITI and its standards can often be difficult for new countries.
She stressed that the role of the EITI in Guyana, as in all other implementing countries, is to collect data from the government and companies on their performance in the extractive sector so that citizens can understand how their resources are being allocated, the revenues they are bringing in and how they are being distributed.
“It’s about disclosure of information about the sector. Do you know how licences are allocated in your country? Do you know how much money a particular company pays your government? Do you understand the fiscal regime in terms of royalty payments? We are here to explain it and to be sure that there’s a conversation about data and facts and no speculation, and I think that’s a benefit to everyone,” she added, while pointing out that the second main purpose of the initiative is for the publishing of information to ensure there is better and “good” governance.
Some participants questioned the role of companies and government in disclosing their data to the GYEITI and Paris stressed that being part of the initiative is voluntary but government can produce legislation to make it mandatory. “It is a journey on which we have only just started and it is not the only answer. It is one of many mechanisms but they are only as good as commitment from the stakeholders – civil society, industry and government,” he added.
The first day of the workshop featured presentations on different standards of the EITI’s international body as well as discussions on the role of the media, public debates, data accessibility, discrepancies and recommendations from the EITI report. The second day of the workshop was expected to feature presentations on the EITI reporting cycle, communications strategy, social and economic spending, understanding systemic disclosure of EITI information, and revenue allocation, among other things.