AG sig­nals in­ter­est in au­dit­ing Exxon sign­ing bonus

-as Au­dit Of­fice staff set to un­dergo oil sec­tor train­ing

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

In the com­ing weeks, two Cana­dian ex­perts will be as­sist­ing the Au­dit Of­fice to build its ca­pac­ity in prepa­ra­tion for the oil and gas in­dus­try, Au­di­tor Gen­eral Deo­dat Sharma says.

Sharma made the dis­clo­sure at the hand­ing over of the 2017 Au­di­tor Gen­eral’s re­port to the Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, Dr Bar­ton Scot­land, on Fri­day, where he also ex­pressed an in­ter­est in au­dit­ing the US$18 mil­lion sign­ing bonus gov­ern­ment re­ceived from ExxonMo­bil.

Read­ing from a pre­pared state­ment, he said that as the oil and gas sec­tor dawns, his of­fice is aware of that it is mas­sive and di­verse. In this re­gard, he said, the Au­dit Of­fice, through a part­ner­ship with the Cana­dian Ex­ec­u­tive Ser­vices Or­gan­i­sa­tion (CESO), will be en­gag­ing in ca­pac­ity build­ing ini­tia­tives in the com­ing weeks.

Con­cerns have been raised about Guyana’s lim­ited ca­pac­ity to au­dit pre­con­tract costs for oil re­cov­ery, and the au­thor­i­ties have said that an in­ter­na­tional firm will be hired to aid both the Guyana Rev­enue Au­thor­ity (GRA) and the state au­dit of­fice to dis­charge their obli­ga­tions.

Speak­ing on the CESO part­ner­ship, Sharma said the ini­tia­tive will be car­ried out with the as­sis­tance of two Cana­di­ans in­clud­ing Daniel Barchyn, a Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive and Pro­fes­sional En­gi­neer with over 38 years ex­pe­ri­ence in the en­ergy in­dus­try, in­clu­sive of found­ing and lead­ing two oil and gas ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies. The other is Ra­jesh Dayal, who has over 27 years ex­pe­ri­ence in the pub­lic ser­vice of Canada, in­clud­ing 13 years at the Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral of Canada.

“More specif­i­cally, we would be look­ing at the var­i­ous ar­eas in the oil and gas sec­tor that may be rel­e­vant to our en­gage­ment when it comes to ex­am­in­ing the rev­enues and ex­pen­di­tures of the sec­tor,” he said. Sharma added that th­ese in­clude reg­u­la­tory, tech­ni­cal and even sci­en­tific ar­eas.

Through the same part­ner­ship with CESO, he in­formed, his of­fice will be build­ing ca­pac­ity to un­der­take en­vi­ron­men­tal au­dits. At­ten­tion will be paid to the reg­u­la­tory as­pects, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal gov­er­nance as well as key en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues re­lated to air, rivers, land, oceans and coastal ar­eas, forests, the ex­trac­tive sec­tor, or solid waste man­age­ment and dis­posal.

Sharma in­formed that a few weeks ago, two of­fi­cers em­barked on a nine-month at­tach­ment with the Au­dit Of­fice of Bri­tish Columbia, Canada. One of­fi­cer, he said, will be work­ing in the area of En­vi­ron­men­tal Au­dit, with spe­cial em­pha­sis on Guyana’s level of pre­pared­ness to deal with an oil spill at sea, which can have dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on en­dan­gered species, and also on crops and live­stock along the coast­line.

This at­tach­ment forms part of an ar­range­ment with the Cana­dian Au­dit and Ac­count­abil­ity Foun­da­tion (CAAF) for which an Agree­ment with the Au­dit Of­fice of Guyana would be signed in Jan­u­ary, 2019, whereby CAAF will be pro­vid­ing train­ing in var­i­ous dis­ci­plines for the of­fice over the next seven years.

The other of­fi­cer, ac­cord­ing to Sharma, will be work­ing in the area of ‘Gen­der Equal­ity and the Em­pow­er­ment of Women and Girls,’ with spe­cific em­pha­sis on the ‘Man­age­ment of the Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Train­ing (TVET) Pro­gram.’ The TVET in­sti­tu­tions, he said, are com­mit­ted to of­fer­ing ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to youths and adults in ar­eas vi­tal to the de­vel­op­ment of Guyana.

“As we move closer to 2020, Guyana will need skilled man­power, both male and fe­male, in the oil and gas sec­tor,” he said, be­fore adding that the aim of such an au­dit will be to as­sess the ef­fec­tive­ness of the TVET in­sti­tu­tions in pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary train­ing.

Mean­while, asked how soon he is pre­pared to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the US$ 18 mil­lion sign­ing bonus, which was ini­tially kept se­cret by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, Sharma told re­porters that this is de­pen­dent on the prepara­tory work in­volv­ing the two Cana­di­ans. He said that this col­lab­o­ra­tion cen­ters around pre­par­ing and ed­u­cat­ing the of­fice on how the oil and gas sec­tor should be au­dited. “I wouldn’t say that we are fully pre­pared as yet un­less we have those types of prepa­ra­tions,” he said, be­fore as­sur­ing that when this hap­pens, his of­fice will look at the sign­ing bonus.

He said that in prepa­ra­tion for con­duct­ing such au­dits, staff will be trained in what to look for in doc­u­ments, such as the con­tract with the oil gi­ant. “There are lots of is­sues there (in the con­tract) that we need to un­der­stand…,” he said.

Sharma also in­formed that the Au­dit Of­fice was able to in­crease its vis­i­bil­ity and im­prove col­lab­o­ra­tion with some of its key stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing those in the hin­ter­land where com­mu­ni­ca­tion medi­ums are lim­ited or even nonex­is­tent. More­over, he said an of­fi­cial web­site was de­vel­oped, www.au­dit.org.gy. and brochures and book­lets pub­lished on the role and work of the of­fice. In­fomer­cials were also de­vel­oped and pub­li­cised us­ing the elec­tronic me­dia, he added.

Fur­ther, he said, Guyana is presently the Deputy Chair of the Caribbean Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Supreme Au­dit In­sti­tu­tions (CAROSAI). In Au­gust, 2018, CAROSAI cel­e­brated its 30th An­niver­sary in Jamaica and dur­ing the lat­ter part of June 2019, Guyana will be host­ing the 11th Congress of CAROSAI, fol­low­ing which Guyana will be tak­ing over the Chair­man­ship of the body.

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