Oil Audit: ‘Disciplinary measures’ for senior gov’t staff in unauthorised engagement with ExxonMobil

Guyana Revenue Authority, Guyana’s main tax regulator, recommended that the audit, which identifies US$214 million in questionable spending by ExxonMobil’s local subsidiary from 1999 to 2017, be finalised.

But it recently came to light that staff from the Natural Resources Ministry engaged the company on that spending. The company, according to Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, provided additional documentation that US$214 million was spent and the questionable sum was brought down to about US$11 million and later, US$3 million.

That engagement was not authorised as the government wanted the technical body, the GRA, to deal with the audit.

Bharrat, in his letter, stated that the GRA was indeed the body to finalise the audit and the Natural Resources Ministry’s role included overseeing the process of conducting the audit as per the oil contract and facilitating the exchange of information and documentation among the relevant parties, including the GRA.

“However, based on advice from Mr. Gopnauth Gossai that the initial claim of USD$214,911,994 was reduced to USD$3,414,853.68, I wrote the Guyana Revenue Authority on 28th November, 2022 to confirm this figure by seeking a “No Objection”.

“As recent as July, 2023 Mr. Gossai in a meeting with the Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and I, reported that the initial sum was reduced to USD$11,497,140 then further down to USD$3,414,853.68. Given that I had written the GRA since November, 2022 and it was established that the GRA’s involvement is necessary to finalise the audit, I was under the impression that the reduced figure was done in collaboration with the GRA,” Bharrat said however.

He added that he only learnt subsequently that GRA did not agree with the move to reduce the claims and instead, the figure in question remained at US$214 million.

A probe was subsequently launched and a report on the investigation was presented to Cabinet on Thursday. Bharrat says now that systems are being established to prevent any such recurrence.

“…. systems will be established to ensure no repetition of this lapse in the future.

“Also, staff members will be (advised) to make full disclosure with all contact and sharing of information with stakeholders in the sector,” he wrote.

This audit is the first ever one conducted on cost claims by ExxonMobil Guyana Limited, previously known as Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), for the pre-production period.