US$214 million ExxonMobil’s disputed cost: Bharrat sticks by Gossai ‘I will not discredit him’

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 November 2023, 20:45 by Denis Chabrol

Mr. Gopnauth ‘Bobby’ Gossai

Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat on Tuesday said his ministry’s Senior Petroleum Coordinator, Gopnauth ‘Bobby’ Gossai-who was punished for unauthorised negotiation of the reduction US$214 million from ExxonMobil’s cost bank to US$3 million- did so due to inexperience.

“I will not attempt to discredit any of my staff; if it was fatal but it was not,” he told a news conference.

Mr  Gossai was warned, and 15 days’ pay deducted from his salary for “negligence” that had caused the Natural Resources Ministry to be disgraced and severely criticised for purportedly slashing the cost bank in the audit of the Stabroek Block expenses from 1999-2017.

Instead, the Natural Resources Minister hoped the public would praise the work of a “good, young bright team” who work overtime compared to what hundreds of workers have to do in other countries. He put down the Senior Petroleum Coordinator’s action possibly to “inexperience, but I would not go down the road to chastise or discredit the team.” “Sometimes, we need to give them credit too, not only to chastise them for a mistake and to bring them down and to degrade them for just a mistake,” the minister added.

Minister Bharrat shrugged off suggestions in sections of the public that Mr Gossai was protected politically, saying that that contracted worker was not a member of the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC). “Mr Gossai is not a member of the People’s Progressive Party and he wasn’t employed because he was a member,” he said. “As to political coverage, I don’t see any of that given to anyone,” he added.

On the question of whether the Natural Resources Minister was fit for the job, he (Bharrat) recalled that very early in his tenure questions had been raised about his suitability for that ministerial post, but he opted to continue working hard in the interest of Guyanese. He reminded that it was the elected government that had intervened and halted the negotiations between Mr Gossai and ExxonMobil’s representatives and ensure that Guyanese get the true value of their resources. “If people say we were selling out the country or selling out to Exxon…I want to assure you that we made that intervention- when I say ‘we’: government- President, Vice President, myself, Cabinet- we made that intervention to say that we are not going to accept this reduction, the consultant said something else, the audit discussion went on without our knowledge, we don’t have a report to say ‘yes’ this is the report we reduced it because obviously you need a report to substantiate what you are saying,” he said.

The government and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) have said that they are sticking with the US$214 million claim, and ExxonMobil was free to take the matter to arbitration.