Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Godfrey Statia sought to emphasize earlier today that his entity is legally empowered to conduct an audit of the controversial US$900M pre-contract costs.
His comments come in wake of criticisms by Chartered Accountants, Chris Ram and John Seeram in the daily newspapers. Seeram wrote recently that the Auditor General should be the one conducting the audit of ExxonMobil’s pre-contract costs while Ram raised doubts that GRA can “properly, legally and meaningfully,” audit the operations of the exploration company.
Ram is also of the opinion that GRA has no jurisdiction over the Petroleum Agreement or to demand returns from the oil companies since the obligation to submit those returns rests with the Minister.
In a missive to the media, Statia debunked such claims.
The tax chief said, “Without a doubt, I have respect for these two gentlemen, both of whom are experts in their respective fields, and both of which I have had working relationships with. However, I need to draw their attention to Section 6.2 of the well-publicized Petroleum Agreement which provides that ‘the Minister of Government may delegate to Other Government entities to perform these or any other duties and the Contractor shall fully comply with such lawful delegation upon ninety (90) days written notice from the date of receipt of such notice.”
Statia said that these duties entail reviewing any proposed exploration work programme and budgets presented by the contractor; review of any development plan submitted by the Contractor in accordance with an application for a petroleum Production licence; ensuring the accounting procedures are followed; and ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Agreement, the Petroleum Act and Regulations.
The Commissioner General said that GRA, as an agent of the Government for the purposes of tax collection is, therefore, acting as a lawful delegate.
Statia said, too, that both men are aware that the Authority has been putting in place the necessary infrastructure and professional staff to deal with this activity.
He concluded, “As Commissioner-General I am confident in the ability of the GRA to undertake this task and get this job done. I trust that this lends some clarity to the never-ending debate of the Audit of petroleum activities. “