The Oil and Gas Governance Network (OGGN) has been given immense prominence by the publisher of Kaieteur News as an authoritative, legitimate, and credible organization on oil and gas matters in Guyana. Yet, there is no evidence produced by the organization, or available otherwise, corroborating its legitimacy.
Interestingly, the directors of the OGGN appear to be the principal founders and are all described as renowned scholars in their respective fields by Kaieteur News. According to information on the OGGN website, the directors are: Alfred Bhulai, Dr. Andre Brandli, Dr. Janette Bulkan, Dennis Henry, Darsh Khusial, Joe Persaud, Mike Persaud, Dr. Ganga Ramdas, and Charles Sugrim.
The OGGN mission statement is stated as follows:
”OIL has become a CURSE in many countries around the world. OGGN’s mission is to advocate for rule of law, environmental protection and financial norms with respect to oil exploration and production in Guyana. Oil will feature prominently in Guyana’s future for decades to come; thus we think long-term. We accomplish our mission by:
1. Informing and educating the Guyanese public including the more than 50% of Guyanese who live in the diaspora.
2. Engaging the local and international media to feature topics related to our mission.
3. Advocating for transparency, accountability, and good governance by raising related concerns to international organizations and governments.
We measure our success by the improvement in the lives of the 41% of the Guyanese population, who live below the poverty line, over the long term. (Note: According to a 2020 report by the Inter-American Development Bank, (Review of Financial Development and Inclusion for Guyana: Assessment and Options for Reform), 41.2% of Guyanese live on less than US$5.50 per day. Further, it is stated on the OGGN website that it was created in the summer of 2017 as a registered non-profit organization in New York City, United States with 501 (c). The OGGN also claims to have no political association, and that they work for the benefit of all people of Guyana.”
See link to the OGGN’s website here [https://www.oggn.org/about/](https://www.oggn.org/about/ “”).
Questions for the OGGN Directors / Principal Founders
I can recall that the OGGN had written formally to the Government of Guyana (GoG) on several key issues in the oil and gas sphere. The OGGN is also a staunch critic of the Government’s stewardship of the sector, including, on issues of governance and transparency. Hence, if the OGGN wants the GoG to take it seriously, it is reasonable to expect that the OGGN can withstand scrutiny and prove that it is a legitimate organization. In order to do so, the following questions are put forward to the Directors:
i) Can the OGGN prove that it has been granted with a 501 (c) (3) status? If it is indeed a 501 (c) (3) status, then the principals of the organization ought to be in a position to furnish the public with the relevant documentation to prove same:
a) Can the OGGN publish its 501 (c) (3) determination letter that it obtained from the IRS? All organizations with 501 (c) (3) status are issued with a determination letter by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States Government (IRS).
b) Can the OGGN publish its Bylaws on its website? It would appear that this is a legal requirement for organizations with 501 (c) (3) status, having perused the websites of other credible and legitimate 501 (c) (3) organizations such as the American Red Cross. See link to website here and their Bylaws [https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/governance.html](https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/governance.html “”).
ii) Can the OGGN state its source of funding?
iii) Can the OGGN state whether it has audited financial statements? Pursuant to the rules governing 501 (c) (3) organizations, its financial information must be publicly accessible. In the case of OGGN, it is not.
iv) Can the OGGN state whether it is an advocacy body or a Think Tank?
v) What are the requirements to become a member?
vi) How can one become a member?
vii) What is the Governance Structure?
viii) Can the OGGN state whether it is a public charity or a private foundation?
Commentary and Other Observations
In order for an organization to be granted the 501 (c) (3) status by the IRS in the United States, it has to adhere to a stringent set of rules and guidelines. Of particular note, one such rule states that a “501 (c) (3) organization is forbidden from using its activities to influence legislation in a substantial way”. Also, under section 501 (c) (3), an organization must not be serving any private interests, including the interests of the creator, the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or other persons controlled by private interests. None of the net earnings of the organization can be used to benefit any private shareholder or individual; all earnings must be used solely for its advancement of its charitable cause”.
The work of the OGGN are arguably inconsistent with, and / or, have departed from their stated mission. For example, the mission states that their success is measured by improving the lives of some 41% of Guyanese living below the poverty line (cited from a questionable World Bank source).
While it remains unclear whether they have achieved this, if at all, and how; two of the OGGN’s principal directors have described the carbon credit sale as a fraudulent transaction perpetrated by the GoG. Although the carbon credit funding is deployed to tangibly contribute to the development of the indigenous communities, the OGGN strongly lobbied against this.
With respect to the work produced by the OGGN, assuming that they are functioning as a “think tank”, there is no evidence of any scholarly work produced from 2017 to present on the thematic areas that its principal founders have identified as its main focus. Newspaper letters and opinion pieces are woefully inadequate to be considered scholarly work emanating from such organizations. To substantiate this view, another one of OGGN’s principal director argued that solar energy is cheaper than the gas-to-energy (GTE) project, and that the GoG should abandon the GTE and move straight to renewables. However, the OGGN failed to credibly demonstrate a cost comparison between the two sources, and with scientific evidence to show that solar energy is sufficient for a sustainable supply of the base-load energy requirements.
Editor, these are just a few examples for illustration purposes.
Against all of the foregoing, the legitimacy of the OGGN is highly questionable. The findings, thus far, leaves one to question whether the OGGN is a fake organization, or if it even exists. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the founding members of the OGGN may have participated in a deceitful endeavor, should they fail to provide the answers to the questions posed herein. And, considering the requirements to do so pursuant to section 501 (c) 3.