AG signals interest in auditing Exxon signing bonus
-as Audit Office staff set to undergo oil sector training
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.