-Minister Harmon says Demerara Waves article mischievous
Georgetown, Guyana – (October 18, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, reiterated that responsibility for the oil and gas sector rests solely with President David Granger, even though he is answerable to the National Assembly for the Ministry of the Presidency and its departments, which includes the Department of Energy.
Minister Harmon was at the time, speaking to reporters on the side-lines of the opening ceremony of the Partnership Initiative for Sustainable Land Management High Level Meeting of Caribbean Ministers from Small Island Developing States at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown.
Responding to an article carried on the online news site, Demerara Waves, captioned “Granger takes charge of oil and gas sector; Harmon not required to meet with oil company executives”, dated October 17, 2018, Minister Harmon explained that at previous Post-Cabinet Press briefings, it was made explicitly clear that the Department of Energy will be under the purview of the President.
“I had announced that His Excellency would have established the Department of Energy from August 1, 2018 and that it would be headed by a Director, Dr. Mark Bynoe and that the entity will report directly to His Excellency who would exercise personal supervision over it. So it is strange [to hear this now]. You understand that in the way in which our official gazettes are published…with ministerial responsibility that all of these issues, which fall under the President and the Ministry of the Presidency will be published under my name so that I will answer to those issues in the National Assembly,” Minister Harmon said.
At the Post-Cabinet Press briefing on March 8, 2018, Mr. Neil Marks, a reporter attached to the local media outfit, the News Room, questioned whether the Minister of State would be gazetted as the person who holds responsibility for this Department. Minister Harmon had responded that, “the Department of Energy is under the Ministry of the Presidency and will receive direct guidance from His Excellency the President. The quintet of Ministers with responsibility for oil and gas have been tasked with setting up the various items that I’ve explained to you, 10 different things – the structure, functioning, the capacity building and all of these different issues will be dealt with under that. So, it’s basically giving more space, more authority, more resources and the direct eye of the President in dealing with these issues.”
Further, Mr. Denis Chabrol from the Demerara Waves, followed up on this question, querying who will be the reporting Minister to the House when it comes to the Energy Department. Minister Harmon stated on that occasion that “once it is in the Ministry of the Presidency, the Minister of State is the person who will answer to the Parliament for any matter that relates to the Ministry of the Presidency.”
In reference to a letter from the President to oil companies, which Demerara Waves quoted in its article, Minister Harmon said that even before the President’s letter was dispatched; he would have already written to the companies and other agencies informing them of the change.
“Even before the letter that you spoke about written by His Excellency, I had written to all of the companies including the international banks and some foreign countries indicating to them that the Department of Energy was established on August 1, 2018 and that all issues in relation to oil and gas were to be referred to that entity under Dr. Bynoe. It is important, with this being a new entity, that we establish very clearly the authority of the entity and this is what His Excellency, the President has reinforced; that this is a new department of Government established and therefore we have to work assiduously to ensure that it is given that authority and scope which is required by us,” the Minister of State said.
Transcript of Post-Cabinet Press Briefing of Thursday, March 8, 2018 where Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon announced that Cabinet has approved the establishment of the Department of Energy and President David Granger will have oversight.
Cabinet has accepted the proposal of the Honourable Minister of Natural Resources to establish a specialised department of energy to administer the affairs of Guyana’s oil and gas sector. Cabinet was informed that owing to the complexity of the task of administering the huge resources of the new industry, it was felt that a special department should be set up under the aegis of the Ministry of the Presidency for its management.
The following areas were to be given attention:
(1) organisation structure of the ‘department’;
(2) legislation to be introduced for the sector;
(3) negotiation with potential investors;
(4) exploration and production licences;
(5) public communications responsibility;
(6) engagement of technical experts;
(7) establishment of a natural resources or some many call it a Sov3ereign Wealth Fund;
(8) capacity-building measures
(9) review of fiscal contractual terms; and
(10) transfer of responsibility from the Ministry of Natural Resources to the Department of Energy.
It was also agreed that the Ministerial quintet +1 that was appointed by Cabinet to advise on matters related to oil and gas sector would make recommendations with regard to the establishment and other matters concerning the functioning of the Department.
Neil Marks – NewsRoom: Mr. Harmon, on the Department of Energy, could you say, sir if you would be gazetted responsibility for this Department of if consideration is being given to appointing a new Minister to manage this Department?
Minister Harmon: With respect to the Department of Energy, it is under the Ministry of the Presidency and will receive direct guidance from His Excellency the President. The quintet of Ministers with responsibility for oil and gas have been tasked with setting up the various items that I’ve explained to you, 10 different things – the structure, functioning, the capacity building and all of these different issues will be dealt with under that. So, it’s basically giving more space, more authority, more resources and the direct eye of the President in dealing with these issues.
Denis Chabrol – DemeraraWaves: Follow-up minister. Sir, in terms of its relationship with Parliament, who will be the reporting Minister to the House when it comes to the Energy Department?
Minister Harmon: Well, once it is in the Ministry of the Presidency, the Minister of State is the person who will answer to the Parliament for any matter that relates to the Ministry of the Presidency.
Neil Marks – NewsRoom: The Department of Energy, Minister Harmon, I want us to go back there. Has a determination been made about who will head this Department or is that a responsibility that the Quintet of Ministers also ahs to decide on?
Minister Harmon: Yes, that’s correct.
Marcelle Thomas- Stabroek News: I want to follow-up on the Department of Energy. Some of the roles, as it relates to energy for the local sector comes under the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, GPL and so forth. I wanted to know if [those] roles will be taken away by this Department of Energy or where [the] divisions come [from]
Minister Harmon: Yes. Okay those responsibilities with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will remain there for the time being. The Department of Energy initially will be dealing with oil and gas. That is the initial intention. Ultimately, a Department of Energy will basically deal with all matters relating to energy, but as it stands right now, those matters which relate to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will remain there, and … this Department of Energy or whatever name we eventually give to it, will deal with oil and gas, this is the specific responsibility of this Department right now.
Denis Chabrol – DemeraraWaves: Why didn’t government decide to set up a Ministry instead of having a department in the Ministry of the Presidency and secondly, how do you guard against the process being politicised by so many ministers?
Minister Harmon: Well, you’re actually asking two questions there in one because if you’re saying that the department should be made a ministry, now basically what you’re saying basically is that we’ll have another Minister for that. At the same time, you’re asking how do we prevent the politicisation by more ministers so you can’t have it both ways. What I’m saying is that it’s a Department and as you know, we are constrained by the number of ministers that we can have in the government and so you can’t just create new ministries because you’re also creating … you’re creating more bureaucracy as well, in the system so that the Departments basically will fall neatly as we have a Department of the Environment, we now have a Department of Energy, which will be focusing on oil and gas.
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