Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire S.C. ruled on Friday that the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, and Director of the Local Content Secretariat, Dr. Martin Pertab, erred in their denial of a Local Content Certificate to Ramps Logistics Guyana Inc.
The company had submitted its application earlier this year to the Secretariat, but it was refused on several grounds on June 8, 2022. The Secretariat flagged, among other issues, inconsistencies in financial statements submitted that would prove 51% of the company is owned by a bonafide Guyanese, Deepak Lall.
Pertab said in his affidavit that Ramps was facing several charges laid by the Guyana Revenue Authority for breach of the customs law. As a result of this, the application for Ramps was placed on hold.
The Chief Justice after probing several aspects of Pertab’s submissions, determined however that the State fell woefully short in proving its case. The CJ concluded that the minister has, and had, no authority under the law to make a decision to refuse a Local Content Certificate of Registration.
As for Pertab’s consideration of the GRA charges, the CJ pointed out that those were laid five days after the application for judicial review and were therefore irrelevant as a point of reference. She said the Director “clearly took irrelevant matters into consideration in deciding to refuse the application for registration.”
Furthermore, the Chief Justice noted that Pertab in his application said there were inconsistencies between the application by Ramps and Form C (a list of requirements by the Secretariat to carry out its due diligence of the companies applying to be part of the register). The Chief Justice was keen to highlight the absence of Form C as an exhibit that would substantiate the claim made in the affidavit. She also stressed that such a Form ought to be affixed to the legislation or regulations so that there is clarity about what is required from all stakeholders.
In her preliminary ruling, the Chief Justice said, “The law provides a relatively simple regime for registration once the person satisfies the criteria in this case, of being a Guyanese company. There is no evidence submitted by the Respondent (Pertab and Bharrat) to counter the information provided by the applicant which I have considered and concluded satisfies the requirements of the Local Content Act.”
Furthermore, the Chief Justice said the Local Content Act clearly needs regulations so as to prevent arbitrary decision making. As a consequence of her conclusions, the following orders for declarations as requested by the applicant were granted. The Chief Justice issued a declaration that the minister and/or director have misconstrued or misapplied the law; that the applicant has satisfied the statutory requirements and preconditions necessary for the grant of the certificate; and finally, that the Director, Minister and Secretariat breached the law with their refusal to grant the certificate, as such, their decision is deemed unlawful, illegal and of no effect.
An order was also granted to compel the Director to issue the certificate on or before noon on November 14, 2022.
OilNOW understands that cost for damages will be assessed at a separate hearing. Ramps’ legal team is expected to submit affidavit evidence in this regard on or before December 17, 2022. The Respondents will file submissions in answer on or before January 20, 2023. Ramps will also get two weeks to reply, if necessary, by February 3, 2023.
This aspect of the case will then be heard on February 20, 2023 at 1:30 PM.