The long awaited 2018 Natural Resource Fund bill was passed in the National Assembly on Thursday evening.
The bill, which saw minor amendments, was passed in the absence of the opposition, People’s Progressive Party/Civic.
The opposition had earlier taken a decision to abstain from Thursday’s sitting, after Speaker of the House; Dr. Barton Scotland convened that sitting to make a final ruling on the PPP’s “no confidence” motion, which was passed on December 21 by a 33/32 majority.
The opposition’s argument was that the sitting was unconstitutional since the Speaker does not have the power to review. Dr. Scotland said in his remarks that he does have such authority but thought it prudent to refer the matter to the court.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, pointed to the proposed appointment of the Public Accountability Oversight Committee of the Natural Resource Fund.
He said, “This is to ensure proper spending and management of resources derived from oil and gas. This committee will ensure funds are managed in accordance with best practices.”
This committee, he noted, will not feature any representatives from the Government or political opposition.
He said, “The committee will consist of representatives from communities, women organizations, the bar association, Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GY-EITI), Guyana Press Association, the trade unions, the consumer association, the private sector, and the 10 Regional Democratic Councils.”
Mr. Jordan added that the Government is well aware of the importance of transparency and accountability in the management of the fund.
Therefore, he said, “No better than a watchdog is an independent council or committee clothed with the necessary legal and other provisions to undertake such oversight.”
Additionally, he underscored that persons appointed to the committee will only be required to serve for a maximum of two years.
Just last August, the Government of Guyana tabled a Green paper titled “Managing Future Petroleum Revenues and Establishment of Fiscal Rule and a Sovereign Wealth Fund” in the National Assembly.