Newly-appointed head of the Department of Energy (DoE) Dr. Mark Bynoe was handpicked by President David Granger, State Minister Joseph Harmon confirmed yesterday before dismissing concerns that he may be unsuitable for the job.
In responding to questions during a post-Cabinet press briefing, Harmon explained that all the directors of departments under the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) are persons who are appointed by the president. “For example, you have a Department of the Environment, that Director has been appointed by the President. You have a Department of Public Service and the Director, who is the Permanent Secretary there, is also appointed by the president,” he said before reiterating that the president appoints the heads of those departments which fall directly under MoTP “in his own deliberate judgement.”
He added that there may be considerations which will be taken into account but it is the president who appoints someone of his choosing.
Bynoe’s appointment took effect from August 1st but questions have been raised about his selection in light of a disclosure by former presidential advisor Dr. Jan Mangal, who said the vacancy was supposed to be advertised globally.
According to him, the requirements for the person to head such an integral institution were laid out in a plan that had been compiled during his tenure and which was discussed as recently as March of this year. That plan included that the vacancy be advertised globally so as to get the best person. “The head of the new Department of Energy, per the plan from March, was to be someone with international gravitas, someone who could challenge the likes of [former US Secretary of State and former Head of ExxonMobil] Rex Tillerson, for example, who was comfortable talking [oil and gas] with Ministers from the major producing countries and the top executives from the major oil companies,” Mangal stated last Tuesday, shortly after learning of the appointment.
“Some of the qualifications were: High level ministerial experience in natural resources, Executive level experience with a major oil and gas company (such as Shell, Exxon, Chevron, BP, etc). Hence the candidates were to be former Ministers or Vice-Ministers from major oil producing countries who also spent time in industry at the executive level,” he added.
Based on what is known, Bynoe does not possess such experience.
Much like Granger did last week, Harmon was quick to defend the appointment. He made it clear to reporters that he has taken note of concerns about Bynoe’s qualifications and his suitability for the job. Harmon used the forum to described Bynoe as “an excellent choice” for the job, given his credentials.
Apart from his stated qualifications and the work he has done in the area of climate change and the environment, Harmon pointed out that Bynoe has “wide experience.”
Bynoe is the Managing Director of the Georgetown-based Development Policy and Management Consultants firm.
On the company’s website, his listed qualifications include a PhD from the University of East Anglia in Economics (Environmental Economics). “He has wide ranging experience in development-, trade-, and environment-related issues and possesses strong analytical and quantitative skills. Specifically, he has been involved in a variety of socio-economic studies during the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessments, and assessing and economically quantifying climate change impacts,” the company’s website states.
“Furthermore, Dr. Bynoe has worked, in collaboration with Distinguished Professor Clive Thomas on assessing the Impact of Agricultural Trade and Related Reforms on Domestic Food Security, looking at poverty indicators and nutritional statistics, among other things. He has published widely in reputable journals on issues of environmental economics, trade and environmental impact assessment,” it adds.
Noting that the Ministry of Natural Resources has already handed over responsibilities for the oil and gas sector to the MoTP, the State Minister said that attention is now being paid to finding skilled persons for the department.
“What we are saying is that what we will do…we will hire the people that are needed for the Department. Dr. Bynoe does not have to be a world-class expert in everything. What we are going to do is that he is now going to head up a team that will identify the specific skills which we need for the Department and we are going to pay for that,” he informed.
Ask about the rehiring of Mangal, Harmon said that this would be a decision for the DoE when the search for skills begins. “It is up to the Department to decide whether they need his service,” he stressed.