Public will be made aware of all oil payments to Guyana Govt – Exxon
…“that’s what people want to know, where the money going” – Country Manager
Country Manager of ExxonMobil, Rod Henson, has committed the company – gearing for commercial oil production in 2020 – to the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) with its headquarters in Oslo, Norway.
Henson was at the time addressing participants at first ever Guyana EITI outreach workshop held in Corriverton, Berbice, on Saturday at the City Inn Hotel.
According to the ExxonMobil Country Representative, Guyana’s participation as an EITI member will promulgate greater transparency and accountability in the oil sector, since the full payments made to Government by ExxonMobil will have to be made public.
Government under the EITI mechanism will also be responsible for making its revenue received from ExxonMobil public in order to be verified by international third party auditors.
According to the ExxonMobil Country representative, Guyana being an EITI member will hold oil companies operating in Guyana accountable and in fact encourages a level playing field among the competitors.
Henson was at the time addressing members the Berbice Community including its Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Members of the Upper Corentyne Chambers of Commerce, Orealla/Siparuta Toshao and other members of the business community.
According to the ExxonMobil Country Manager, the core of the EITI mechanism is the reporting of revenues paid and received coupled with reconciliation by international third party assessors.
He conceded “that’s what most people want to know, where the money going.”
According to Henson, the EITI initiative is good since it encourages transparency and facilitates a better dialogue with civil society, since the public would be in possession of information in relation to payments by the oil companies and monies received by Government – information that can be trusted.
Speaking to the benefits of such an initiative, the Country Manager told participants all countries rich and poor requires investments and being a member an EITI country bodes well since it sends a signal to investors that the country is committed to the principles of transparency and accountability.
He said too the EITI initiative in fact “lowers our industry risk in this area.”
Henson used the occasion to remind that the extractive industry is in fact very capital intensive, with large sums of money being invested hence companies engaged in such activities would require long-term stability.
“EITI improves Government accountability and revenues to State… it can be an anti-corruption tool… in general it raises the standard of business.”
The ExxonMobil Country Representative was quick to point out that the EITI forum is not where the dialogue between civil society begins since it only supplies factual information that can be trusted, “so that society can use the information to have a dialogue.”
Henson also used the occasion during an interactive session to concede the heightened interest in the oil and gas sector but declined to dictate in anyway how the money will be managed by the country since Guyana is a sovereign country.
“What will be done with the money, as a company I can’t tell the Government what to do,” according to the ExxonMobil Country Manager.
He was quick to point out that ExxonMobil is interested in what obtains since “our reputation depend on it… We know that the oil curse, Dutch disease is a real thing… we don’t want it, we don’t want to look back 20 years on and say Guyana is another example.”
Government representative on the GY-EITI Multistakeholder Group, Gillian Pollard, in her contribution to the outreach sought to impress on the participants the level of contribution of the extractive industry to Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product.
According to Pollard, mining currently contributes some 30 per cent of Guyana’s national earnings and this figure is slated in exponentially balloon as a result of the imminent commercial production of oil in 2020.
“Why not start now to get a handle on this… we need to take our self to a place where we are comfortable with the increases,” she said.
The outreach was sponsored in part by the US-based Carter Center, whose country representative, Jason Calder also told participants of the importance of the joining the EITI initiative.
He was quick to point out however that EITI does not replace any local laws and further is in fact a voluntary arrangement that is none enforceable since countries cannot be sanctioned but rather delisted from the EITI global initiative.
EITI, he said, “is part of a good governance framework.”
The Carter Center representative was quick to point out however that making information on revenues and receipts available to citizen is only useful if citizens use that information properly and use their views to bring to bear on the Government.”
According to Calder, the EITI process only works if citizens analyse reports adding that this “is the critical role civil society plays in the process.”
He point out too that the MSG does not in any way replaces any Government entity or department.
“They don’t take over any responsibility but can make advice on how things can be improved.” Under the EITI initiative, the MSG consists of 12 members, with four each selected from Government, civil society and industry.
Providing an update on Guyana’s application status to the EITI mechanism, MSG National Coordinator, Dr Rudy Jadoopat who indicated that Guyana is looking to submit its formal application by next month and it is expected that after the Oslo board meets in October, approval will be granted to Guyana.
Following presentations by MSG members including civil society representatives, an interactive question and answer segment was occasioned which saw participants engaging panellists on a range of issues including Government plans for the use and management of its oil revenue.