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OPINION: Natural Resource Fund – Conduct hearings to appoint Board

Last Updated on Saturday, 1 January 2022, 12:54 by Denis Chabrol

by Surendra Dhanpaul

The Official Gazette 280/2021 was published on Wednesday December 15th, 2021. Its content is Bill No. 20 of 2021 which will be introduced in the National Assembly. Within the contents of the Bill, now an Act, is Section 5 which details the Board of Directors of the Fund. My concerns are specific to Subsection 1 and Subsection 3.

Subsection 1 says: “There shall be a Board of Directors of the Fund which shall comprise of not less than three and no more than five members who shall be appointed by the President, one of whom shall be appointed Chairperson by the President”. At first glance, one may say that there is nothing; it clearly describes the formation of the Board. However, “members who shall be appointed by the President” provides too much power to the President in such appointments. There are no provisions for the Parliament (another branch of Government) to conduct confirmation hearings for these members. For many, the process of a confirmation hearing may be new, but it provides necessary checks and balances for people appointed to these positions. In short, there is no representation on the board for people who did not vote for the President. It is up to his / her / their discretion. That is too much power in the hands of one person to appoint people to this specific Fund.

Subsection 3 says: “The Directors shall be appointed for a period not exceeding two years and shall be eligible for reappointment.”. Although there is a limit of two years per appointment, there is no limit to the total number of years a person may be on the board. Change in persons may depend on a change in Government which leads to my next problem.

These two subsections are the framework for politicians to use their base during elections to secure the opportunity to govern the Fund though the Board appointments. There is already a power imbalance in Guyana and these two subsections are the beginning of “The Oil Curse” (a book that I highly recommend reading).

Too often we hear lawyers of politicians use the phrase “The Constitution” as if it was a divine document sent by a higher power. We still have an opportunity to correct these issues . I encourage my fellow Guyanese to monitor the developments within this bill closely.