Gazetted Natural Resource Fund transactions to be laid in Parliament

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Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s publishing of all Natural Resource Fund (NRF) transactions, which were done in the interest of transparency and accountability, would soon be followed by the gazetted transactions being laid in Parliament.

In an interview with this publication on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh was asked about the recently gazetted inflows to the Natural Resources Fund. He pointed to the NRF Act, which mandates the release of such information, and noted that the government was fulfilling its commitment to transparency.

“This is a reflection of the strengthened transparency provisions we have incorporated into the NRF. As you know, the old NRF Act had its deficiencies, including that its governing provisions were exceedingly weak, there was no Board of Directors, the powers and roles and responsibilities were heavily concentrated in the hands of the Minister of Finance.

“We’ve changed all of that significantly. So, what we’re now implementing is the strengthened NRF framework, including, and in particular as it relates to the transparency of the operation,” Minister Singh said.

Making it clear that Government would continue to be transparent about the oil funds, Dr Singh said that the notification would be tabled at the next sitting.

“You would have seen in the Gazette (on Monday) a publication. And at the next sitting of Parliament, that notification will be tabled… We will, of course, continue to comply with the NRF Act. We will continue to publish in the Official Gazette, as is required.

“And I might add (that) the law requires these notifications to be tabled in the National Assembly, so this publication fulfills a very important transparency obligation as they relate to the NRF,” the Finance Minister further outlined.

The gazette notification covers profit oil and royalty deposits from March 2020 to February 2022. While profit oil comes from Guyana’s crude entitlements, royalties are paid on a quarterly basis.

It was only a few days ago that, in keeping with his powers under the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act 2021, President Dr Irfaan Ali appointed five persons to the NRF Board, including Major General (retired) Joe Singh, who will chair the Board.

Also appointed were United Kingdom Member of Parliament (MP) with Guyanese roots, David Lammy, and Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, who currently served as Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Also appointed were the National Assembly nominee Dunstan Barrow, a former bauxite industry official and former MP for the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR); and Ramesh Dookhoo, a longstanding executive of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), who was nominated by the body.

It was explained that Major General Singh had been appointed the Chairman of the Board of Directors, and he and the others are expected to take their Oaths of Office shortly.

Section 3 (1) of the NRF Act 2021, Act No 19 of 2021, which was assented to by President Ali on December 30, 2021, establishes the NRF to manage the natural resource wealth of Guyana for the present and future benefit of the people, in an effective and efficient manner, and in accordance with the principles of good governance, transparency, accountability, and international best practices, including the Santiago Principles.

Section 5 (1) of the Act provides for a Board of Directors of the Fund comprising not less than three and not more than five members, who shall be appointed by the President, inclusive of a Chairperson.

In accordance with Section 5 (2), these Directors are to be selected from persons who have wide experience in legal, financial, business, or administrative matters, one of whom shall be nominated by the National Assembly and one of whom shall be a representative of the Private Sector.