Revelation of confusion surrounding Exxon audit figure made possible by PPP/C Gov’t’s commitment to transparency
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo says that the PPP/C Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability has led to the current revelation and a bit of confusion surrounding the final audit figure for Exxon Mobil Guyana expenses.
He expressed the government’s intentions to launch a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the confusion with regard to the audit.
The Vice President noted that the revelation of the issue was made possible through the government’s commitment to transparency within the oil and gas sector.
“Had this happened under APNU we wouldn’t have known about the issue until years from now, like what happened with the 2016 contract and the signing bonus. It took us years to find this out. We have not concluded this matter as yet. But we discovered it largely because of how transparent we have been,” the GS told reporters at a press conference at Freedom House on Thursday.
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been tasked with reviewing the findings of the audit in relation to the country’s interest in the matter.
Dr Jagdeo reaffirmed that the GRA serves to provide the necessary technical input, and that the government has no intentions of pressuring the institution to conclude the matter before they are ready to do so.
In auditing Exxon’s expenses from 1999 to 2017, the British Consultancy Group hired to perform the audit, IHS Markit, flagged a US$214M sum of questionable spending. This figure received a no-objection from GRA, and this decision is one that the government stands by, according to Dr Jagdeo.
However, following this no-objection, it was revealed that a staff member of the Natural Resources ministry engaged ExxonMobil’s local subsidiary, formerly known as Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), on the audit. The General Secretary said that this should not have happened, adding that the natural resources minister is expected to provide a report to the cabinet in relation to this issue.
“We are not accepting anything that Exxon sent subsequently to the closure of the audit by the GRA and if the closure is $211M, then that is it. So, we don’t know what they sent and I am not really interested in it. I am more interested in who authorized this contact and why, after the GRA had said we are closing it at this stage,” Dr Jagdeo stressed.
Meanwhile, addressing the claim that these issues highlighted by the audit could have been avoided with the establishment of a Petroleum Commission, the general secretary reasoned that such a discrepancy may have been overlooked by an independent body.
“If there was no political oversight and it was done only at the commission, and the commission is made up only of technical people, then this probably would’ve gone through. A commission, which is entirely staffed by technical people who are not accountable to the electorate, if they made such a decision, and the politicians couldn’t say ‘We don’t agree with that, we want GRA to deal with it,’, what would have been the outcome?” the GS questioned.