Oil will not fall victim to vicious ‘friends and family’ culture – Trotman promises

Oil will not fall victim to vicious ‘friends and family’ culture – Trotman promises

The mining, forestry, and broadcasting sectors, among others, have been victims of an

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman

unscrupulous culture. It is a culture which sees the close friends and families connected to government officials benefitting from revenue and/or resources which are intended for the benefit and development of the state and its people.

But this culture is not unique to Guyana. It is particularly prevalent in the oil and gas sectors around the world. As Guyana prepares for this new industry which is poised to bring gushing streams of revenue, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman is assuring that the Government is going above and beyond to insulate the oil sector from corruption.   

In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Trotman said that the culture in Guyana of having riches belonging to the state trickle down to family and friends connected to the government, is something that the APNU+AFC coaltion is very conscious of.

The Minister said, “But what we are doing as a government is developing a raft of good governance mechanisms and initiatives. So you have the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) process which would take care of things like beneficial ownership and the engagement or involvement of family and friends and so forth.”

Trotman reminded that Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo would have brought before the National Assembly, amendments to the Integrity Commission Act which has been in the form of a regimented Code of Conduct for public officials.

With this in mind, the Natural Resources Minister said, “We are looking at a raft of legislation and other initiatives to strengthen good governance matters in that regard. At the end of the day, it is not something that is lost on the government, and we have been looking at ways in which we can plug loopholes, ensure declarations, guarantee arms-length relations between persons of influence and contracts and so forth…”

He added, “The Family and friends culture will not permeate oil and gas sector. We have to and we will, insulate the industry from undue influences and corruption. Bear in mind, however, that Guyana is a small country of less than one million people. You go into some place and you realize that you actually went to school with someone there or you know the person. So that is the context of Guyana.”

The Natural Resources Minister said that the idea, nonetheless, is to ensure that ministers and persons of influence are not allowed to divert oil resources which belong to the state and its people to their family and friends.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

It was on Monday that Kaieteur News carried an article which showed how the friends and families connected to the Government of Equatorial Guinea live lifestyles fit for kings and queens.

These “selected” individuals can happily enjoy their riches today, much to the credit of USA oil giant ExxonMobil.

But a damning investigation later revealed that the source of their wealth was due to the fact that ExxonMobil was funneling millions of dollars into a private account belonging to the Government. And that is not all. ExxonMobil was also granting contracts to the friends and family members connected to the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

At one of the hearings held by the American Senate Subcommittee in 2004, Senator Jeff Merkley grilled at length, Rex Tillerson, who was the CEO of ExxonMobil. He is now the US Secretary of State.

Tillerson was questioned on the fact that there were a number of contracts that ExxonMobil did with companies which had strong ties to the friends and family members of the Government of Equatorial Guinea. Merkley said that this included building leases and land leases and a series of other contracts. He added that the net effect was the transfer of more riches to the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

Merkley pointed out that ExxonMobil’s actions raised this moral question: How could this company be engaging Equatorial Guinea in such a manner, that it was essentially enriching the leaders, without little thought of how this was going to impact the people there?

Merkley also pointed out that the unfavourable state of Equatorial Guinea is even reported on by the US State Department.

Tillerson said that while he is aware of the circumstances spoken of by the Senator, he merely maintained that during his time, there were no violations.

With the aforementioned in mind, several anti-corruption advocates fear that the same may take place in Guyana.

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