The Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo had revealed that his party has plans to table legislation that will allow for a greater level of transparency in the emerging oil and gas sector. The former Head of State said that the legislation will be aimed at forcing the government to disclose any monetary submissions by oil companies.
Jagdeo told the Guyana Standard that discussions have already been held with the Open Society Foundation and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), where the PPP has sought their intervention. He told this publication that the party already has drafters working out the nitty-gritty.
The legislation he said will have various transparency mechanisms in place, including a stipulation where the Minister of Finance will have a limited time (one or two weeks) to gazette the receipt of payments. Further to that, Jagdeo spoke of another stipulation which entails a 10-year jail term for failure to disclose funds received.
Companies will also be penalized, the former President said. Jagdeo’s announcement of the disclosure legislation comes on the heels of a furore that erupted almost three months ago when US oil-giant ExxonMobil issued a US $18M Singing Bonus to the state.
The deal was reportedly kept on the down low by the government which had no choice but to reveal their “true” plan after they found themselves in hot water.
Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge told the National Assembly that US$15 million would be spent on legal fees in connection with the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy and US$3 million on training for the petroleum sector.
To justify the government’s actions for keeping the money secret, Greenidge said that the disclosure of the money would have serious implications for Guyana in relation to the border controversy. He had said that the amount of money and what it was going to be expended on, would have given Venezuela a heads-up on Guyana’s preparedness and capacity to deal with the border issue.