Energy Department Director’s responsibility for oil and gas sector doesn’t diminish its importance – Harmon

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 October 2018, 8:17 by Denis Chabrol

Director of the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of Energy, Dr. Mark Bynoe.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, in response to whether his responsibilities were being reduced, has reiterated that he only has reporting functions on the oil and gas sector to the National Assembly but that does not diminish government’s priority on the emerging industry.

He sought to assure companies that they were not being treated with less importance because they would no longer be meeting with a Minister. “It’s unfortunate though, sometimes, that in our culture that when companies are told that they must speak to a Director they feel as if they are being given a lower priority and it’s important that this being a new entity that we establish very clearly the authority of the entity and this is what His Excellency the President has reinforced that this is a new department of government established and, therefore, we have to work assiduously to ensure that it is given that authority and that scope that is required by us,” said Harmon.

Dr. Mark Bynoe is heading the Department of Energy and has been meeting with various stakeholders as steps are being taken to overhaul existing laws, regulations and policies for the hydrocarbon sector and enact new ones.

While Harmon’s gazetted ministerial portfolio is the petroleum sector, he is not required to meet with oil company executives in Guyana. “In the way in which our Official Gazettes are published and so on with ministerial responsibility that all of these issues, which fall under the President and the Ministry of the Presidency, will be published under my name so that I will answer to those issues in the National Assembly,” Harmon said.

President David Granger and Minister of State Joseph Harmon.

The State Minister recalled first addressing his responsibility in September, 2018 when he announced that President David Granger had established the Department of Energy of the Ministry of the Presidency and “the entity would report directly to His Excellency who would exercise personal supervision over it”.

Harmon said even before President David Granger had written to the executives of a number of oil companies, he had also informed them about his responsibility. “I had written to all of the companies, including the international banks and some foreign countries, indicating to them that the Department of Energy was established on the 1st of August 2018 and that all issues in relation to oil and gas were to be referred to that entity under Dr. Bynoe,” he said in response to an article previously published on Demerara Waves Online News.

Back in September, 2018 when the Minister had said that he would be responsible for oil and gas matters in the National Assembly, it had not been made clear that he would not be meeting with oil and gas company executives.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge last week corroborated that fact as has been stated in President Granger’s letter to a number of oil companies earlier this month.

That letter states that the Minister of State is responsible for reporting on the sector to the National Assembly and holding public sector and stakeholder engagements.

“The establishment of the Department means that, as President, I now have responsibility for petroleum pursuant to the Petroleum Act. I am directly and solely responsible for approving exploration and production licences, work plans and local content plans; decommissioning and monitoring and adjudicating, where appropriate, compliance with the laws and regulations, inter alia, of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” Granger says in a letter seen by Demerara Waves Online News.

The oil and gas sector was shifted from Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman to the President earlier this year ahead of the now established Department of Energy.

Last week, it was Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, who had signed a three-year Agreement of Cooperation on oil sector development  at the Ministry of the Presidency with the Minister of Natural Resources of the Canadian province of Labrador and Newfoundland, Siobhan Coady.