Trotman’s failure to understand Petroleum Law mind-boggling – accountant

first_imgSubstantive Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, is being accused of not only a dereliction of his duties when it comes to securing local content for Guyanese labour, goods and services in the development of the petroleum sector, but also a failure to understand the laws of Guyana; a mind-boggling situation since the Minister is himself a trained attorney.Chartered Accountant Christopher RamThese were among the critical sentiments raised on Friday evening when a public discussion was held at Moray House with guest speaker, Christopher Ram.Ram, a practicing attorney, was especially critical of the substantive Minister with responsibility for the sector. The eminent local chartered accountant and civil rights activist told the modest gathering that there is nothing in the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act which prevents the Administration from making public the contents of the contract that ExxonMobil had inked with Government.Trotman has in the past pointed the petroleum laws and said the amendments that had been promulgated by the former Administration in fact prevents the disclosure of such information.Ram has argued, however, that nothing in the law speaks to none disclosure of the contract document. According to Ram, the non-disclosure clause in the law speaks only to proprietary information and not the actual contract.He told those in attendance, the amendments that had been brought by the People’s Progressive Party only sought to increase a fine.Pointing to the section which he says “Trotman has such difficulty reading and understanding”, the chartered accountant and lawyer said it ‘boggles’ his mind that Trotman, himself a lawyer, cannot seem to be able to read the law and understand it.Speaking to the regulatory framework in Guyana which governs the local petroleum sector currently, Ram used the opportunity to highlight the section of the Petroleum Law that both Government and the Opposition have been using to bicker over whether or not to publicly release the contract.AmendmentsRam in speaking to the 1997 amendments to the 1986 Petroleum Act, increased the penalties for a breach of prohibition for unauthorised disclosure of information, “it had nothing to do with the prohibition being set in 1997.”He was adamant the provisions had always been in place ever since the 1986 law that was brought into force by the then President Hugh Desmond Hoyte, adding that it was only the penalties that were increased by the subsequent Administration.For the edification of those in attendance, Ram pointed out that the prohibition on the disclosure of information is limited to information supplied by the companies in reports, “it doesn’t say about any contract…where does this cover a contract.”He used the occasion to say too, “Guyanese are not fools, we have been quiet and we behave like fools but I don’t think we are fools.”Ram who has over the years emerged as one of the more critical independent voices in the Guyanese society when it comes to calling out decision makers on their malpractices and missteps, also accused Trotman of a dereliction of his duties as Minister when it comes to protecting local content, even as he dismissed the current attempts by the Administration to formulate a local content policy.According to Ram, it is imperative as Guyana prepares for first oil in 2020, “We have to decide a local content policy bearing in mind that Trotman has been derelict in terms of local content policy.”Local contentSpeaking specifically to local content, Ram explained that in making an application for a Prospecting Licence, an operator is expected to submit proposals with regard the training and employment of Guyanese.Similarly, in applying for a Production Licence following successful prospecting of a locale and having found oil in viable quantities, the applicant must submit a “statement in the application giving particulars of the proposals with respect to employment and training of citizens of Guyana and proposal in relation to goods and services to be obtained in Guyana.”According to Ram, “the law also prohibits the Minister from granting a production licence unless the proposals for the employment and training of citizens of Guyana and for the procurement of goods and service obtainable within Guyana are satisfactory.”Turning his attention to what instead currently obtains, Ram noted “you have the Minister responsible for petroleum saying in a foreword to a policy framework working draft for discussion and input, the local content policy will be developed over time.”He further quoted Trotman, who in his foreword to the proposed local content policy said “at present regulations will not be promulgated but may become necessary as the industry unfolds and expands and impetus is needed to steer the process or to solidify gains.”A visibly livid Ram subsequently questioned “did this man read the legislation”, as he pointed to the fact that even after production licences have been issued which should have contained proposals for securing local content “now we are holding consultations.” According to Ram, “the fact that a production licence has been issued without being satisfied about the local content is unlawful and its dereliction of duty by the Minister of Petroleum under the legislation.”Ram further chided Trotman, saying he still has the “temerity to say we ain’t gonna be providing anything” with regards the regulation to safeguard local content.last_img

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