Last Updated on Sunday, 26 February 2023, 23:45 by Denis Chabrol
The Terms of Reference for the Independent Administrator to prepare Guyana’s 2020 report to the Norway-headquartered Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was imposed by National Coordinator of the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GYEITI) in clear violation of the rules of that global watchdog, the two Civil Society representatives said Sunday.
In an open letter to President Irfaan Ali, Civil Society representatives on the GYEITI’s Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG), Mike Mc Cormack and Vanda Radzik stopped short of directly rejecting the Guyanese leader’s blame on them for the delay in submitting the report.
While the Guyana government has blamed Mr Mc Cormack and Ms Radzik for Guyana’s suspension from EITI until the 2020 report is submitted, those Civil Society representatives sought to justify their decision to abstain from a vote on February 22, 2023. They said because the MSG never gave the green light for the Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat to seek an extension, they could not support his move. “The Minister of Natural Resources informed the same January Meeting that he had begun to negotiate directly with the EITI International Secretariat to secure an extension of the deadline for the 4th . Annual Report and requested MSG support for this action. However, the MSG only received a copy of said letter after it had been sent. The EITI Standard clearly states that any request for extension “must be made in advance of the deadline and be endorsed by the Multi- Stakeholder Group” (Art.7),” they said. They said they have since written to Mr Bharrat in late January MSG-Civic informing him that MSG-Civic actions would continue to be guided by the December MSG decision.
They pointed fingers at the National Coordinator- Dr Prem Misir who was appointed in February 2022- for disappearing from the post in August 2022 and resurfacing in January 2023. “Later in August it was discovered that the NC (National Coordinator) had disappeared from office without informing or seeking permission from the MSG which eventually became a four months absence from office,” Mr Mc Cormack and Mr Radzik said.
They said that official records of meetings show that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources told the MSG in December 2022 that there was no longer a National Coordinator . “In view of this satisfactory development, the 58th Meeting in December 2022 of the MSG Statutory Body recorded the following decision: “The MSG concluded that it was no longer necessary for the Co-Chairs to engage with the National Coordinator since the PS (Permanent Secretary) had reported at a Co- Chairs meeting that the post of National Coordinator had been vacated”, they said in their open letter to the President.
The Civil Society representatives noted that in August, 2022 at the MSG’s Statutory Meeting a request was received from the National Coordinator for its retroactive approval of Terms of Reference (TOR) for the 4th Annual Report which the Coordinator himself had produced. According to the duo, the MSG refused that offer. “The MSG unanimously declined to approve this request on the
grounds that the content of the TOR was seriously defective and that its submission to the Ministry by the NC without allegedly he benefit of an MSG review, input and approval was a serious violation of the EITI Standard. The Standard vests all authority pertaining to both content
and process of the TOR in the MSG,” they told the President.
During the months of the NC’s absence, the Civil Society representatives said the MSG worked assiduously with the Permanent
Secretary to address both the crisis in the Secretariat and the need to produce a valid TOR. Consequently, they added that in November two senior civil servants were seconded to the National Secretariat (NS) from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and a work-plan for production of the TOR for the Report was set in motion. “The arrangement by the MNR and MSG approval of the two senior staff positions breathed new life into GYEITI and the NS became productive for the first time since the appointment of the NC in early 2022 and began to work assiduously to produce a revised TOR,” the Civil Society representatives said.
“Without notice or explanation the NC re-appeared and presented himself at the January 2023 meeting,” they said.
They told the President that, based on his utterances in the media, he was seemingly “badly advised” about the events that led to Guyana’s suspension from the EITI. The EITI has refused to grant an extension beyond December 31, 2022 but has given a grace period up to July 31, 2023 for Guyana to submit the 2020 report on how well Guyana has fared in transparency in the oil and gas, mining and quarrying, fishing and forestry sectors.
Mr Mc Cormack and Ms Radzik also informed the President that it was not only about the Annual Report that they had concerns about Dr Misir’s performance and those have been documented elsewhere and in the minutes of the MSG meetings which are part of the public record.
The Civil Society activists said they have already conducted their agreed Performance Evaluation of the National Coordinator. No details were provided.
The Independent Administrator is BDO, a United Kingdom-based international network of public accounting, tax and advisory firms- which compiled GYEITI’s previous reports. President Ali last week said he was optimistic that the 2020 Report would be completed before the July 31, 2023 extension set by EITI.