Civil society activists, Vanda Radzik and Mike McCormack, have come forward to set the record straight on who is really at fault for Guyana’s suspension from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). In a letter to President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, the activists articulated that the full burden of blame must be placed on the shoulders of National Coordinator, Prem Misir. The activists contend that Guyana’s failure to submit its 2020 report in a timely fashion, hence the suspension, is but one symptom of the inefficiencies that have permeated the EITI Guyana Chapter since Misir’s appointment.
Last week Friday, President Ali issued a statement detailing his disappointment with the suspension. His preliminary inquiries revealed that the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) wasted precious time on the approval of Terms of Reference (TOR) for the expert that would prepare Guyana’s 2020 report. That document is expected to show the reconciliation of financial statements from government agencies and companies in the extractive sector. The Head of State also said it was his understanding that the TORs saw disapproval from two persons—Radzik and McCormack—only after four months of delay.
Upon noting the President’s comments, the activists said he was terribly misinformed on two fronts: the EITI rules and procedures for producing Terms of Reference (TOR) and what prompted their vote to abstain on the TOR at the MSG meeting of February 22, 2023.
They explained that the MSG is comprised of three actors: civil society, extractive industry companies and government, with each sector selecting its own members.
In August 2022, at a MSG Statutory Meeting, they said a request was received from the National Coordinator (NC) for its retroactive approval of Terms of Reference (TOR) for the 4th Annual Report which the NC himself had produced. “The MSG unanimously declined to approve this request on the grounds that the content of the TOR was seriously defective and that its submission to the Ministry by the NC without the benefit of a MSG review, input and approval was a serious violation of the EITI Standard. The Standard vests all authority pertaining to both content and process of the TOR in the MSG,” they explained.
Later in August, they said it was discovered that Misir had disappeared from office without informing or seeking permission from the MSG which eventually became a four months absence from office.
During the months of the NC’s absence, they said the MSG worked assiduously with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources to address both the crisis in the Secretariat and the need to produce a valid TOR. Consequently, in November, they said two senior civil servants were seconded to the National Secretariat (NS) from the ministry and a work-plan for production of the TOR for the report was set in motion.
They said, “The arrangement by the MNR and MSG’s approval of the two senior staff positions breathed new life into GYEITI and the NS became productive for the first time since the appointment of the NC in early 2022…”
Guyana Standard understands that at the 58th Meeting in December 2022 of the MSG, a proposal to conduct a Performance Evaluation of the NC was agreed on the condition that it be undertaken expeditiously.
Without notice or explanation, they said Misir re-appeared and presented himself at the 59th MSG meeting held in January 2023.
At that meeting, the activists said the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat indicated that he had begun to negotiate directly with the EITI International Secretariat to secure an extension of the deadline for the 4th Annual Report (due since December 2022) and requested MSG support for this action. They said the MSG only received a copy of said letter on this matter after it had been sent. “The EITI Standard clearly states that any request for extension must be made in advance of the deadline and be endorsed by the Multi-Stakeholder Group,” they underscored.
In light of the foregoing, the civic component of the MSG maintained that its vote to abstain on the TOR issue was consistent with what it communicated to the minister. They said too that they are not at fault for Guyana’s suspension, as some actors have led the Head of State to believe.
This news agency understands that a performance evaluation of the National Coordinator is ongoing.