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Civil society activists blamed for Guyana’s suspension from global transparency watchdog

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2023, 20:19 by Denis Chabrol

Mr Mike Mc Cormack

The Guyana government late Wednesday accused at least two civil society members of the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) of the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GYEITI) for contributing to this country’s suspension from the Norway-headquartered anti-corruption.

Through the Ministry of Natural Resources, the government named Mike Mc Cormack and Vanda Radzik for not supporting the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Independent Administrator which would be compiling Guyana’s report for submission to EITI. “It is indeed unfortunate that the TOR has been with the MSG for approval in excess of four months. One can only surmise about the motives concerning the actions and inactions of these members of the Civil Society Group,” the ministry said. Government said the TOR has finally been unanimously approved with Mr McCormack and Radzik, abstaining from voting.

Demerara Waves Online News was told that the Independent Administrator remains the same- BDO, a United Kingdom-based international network of public accounting, tax and advisory firms- which compiled GYEITI’s previous reports.  A source explained that the MSG’s procedure requires the Terms of Reference for the Independent Administrator to be approved before the compilation of each report.

Ms Vanda Radzik (standing)

The Irfaan Ali-led administration stopped short of publicly asking for the suspension to be lifted before Guyana’s report is submitted. “The Government of Guyana trusts that Guyana’s temporary suspension is reconsidered as Guyana seeks to urgently have its outstanding report submitted. The people of Guyana should rest assured that Guyana’s transparency credentials are stronger now than it has ever been before.

“The Government of Guyana remains committed to ensuring that the report is submitted long before the extended date of 31st July, 2023 given by the International Secretariat in its correspondence dated 17th February, 2023,”

The Government of Guyana remains fully committed to the EITI, and it has demonstrated strong leadership in fulfilling its reporting mandate. This leadership has been manifested in our continued and unwavering efforts in working to meet all deadlines established under the EITI,” government said.

According to the Natural Resources Ministry, despite the abstention of Mr Mc Cormack and Ms Radzik, the way is now clear for the independent verification and compilation of the outstanding report by the Independent Administrator as the TOR was approved unanimously.

President Irfaan Ali earlier Wednesday said Guyana expected to complete the process and submit the report by May, 2023, the extension that was granted by EITI.

While sources said EITI suspended Guyana last week because the reasons for requesting another extension were not sufficiently valid, government said last year-end’s deadline was missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, . “Guyana wishes to point out that its temporary suspension is solely linked to its inability to meet the statutory deadline of 31st December, 2022 to submit the independent report by the Independent Administrator on the account of, in the main, the delay perpetuated by some members of the Multi-stakeholder Group (‘MSG’).”

In Guyana’s case,  government said there were a number of intervening challenges during the reporting period, including the declaration of a national flood disaster and restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “The problems associated with the pandemic resulted in the EITI Board approving an extension for the 2019 report for all countries. These intervening challenges affected our data collection efforts and effectively required Guyana to submit two (2) reports in one calendar year,” government added in its statement.

More importantly government cited deliberate frustration with the approval of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Independent International Consultant (‘the Independent Administrator’).

The reasons for the delay in submitting  Guyana’s report were communicated to the International Secretariat of EITI. This was followed by a meeting with Dr. Mark Robinson, Executive Director of the EITI International Secretariat, seeking an extension to 31st May, 2023. At this meeting, the Guyana team was assured of the requested extension, government added.

Government said on receipt of the letter dated 17th February 2023 regarding temporary suspension, it  immediately wrote to the International Secretariat outlining once again the reasons for the delay and Guyana’s commitment to transparency in the extractive sectors.