The Guyana government said on Friday it only learnt about a probe into the award of oil blocks through media reports and it has not received any formal update from the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) in relation to the investigations.
This is according to former Minister of State and now Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon. In a press conference today, June 14, Harmon stated that Cabinet only knows of the investigation, which is reportedly focusing on how the Kaieteur and Canje blocks were awarded by the last government, based on what has been publicized in the media.
“First of all, let me say that these reports…we learned about these reports from the newspapers, from the media. That’s where they’re coming from. We have not had a report from SARA with respect to the nature and extent of their investigations,” he stated.
A Bloomberg report late last month quoted Director of SARA, Dr. Clive Thomas as saying an inquiry is being conducted into how the Stabroek, Kaieteur, Orinduik and Canje Blocks were distributed.
However, a subsequent report in the Associated Press quoted Deputy Director of SARA, Aubrey Retemeyer as saying the focus of the investigation is the Canje and Kaieteur Blocks. The Stabroek, Kaieteur and Canje Blocks were distributed under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government, while Orinduik was awarded by the current Government back in 2016.
If SARA produces such a report, Harmon noted, “a Memorandum will come to Cabinet where Cabinet will deliberate on the matter and we will make findings and make that finding public.”
He went on to say that if SARA, or any other law enforcement agency, finds an illegality or “fundamental breach in some part of our law,” the Government will support the agency in pursuing the necessary actions.
The Director General continued to stress that the Government will only act if a report, which comprises of credible evidence, is presented to them by SARA.
Harmon further declared, “Government will be prepared to throw its weight behind the agency so that we have an outcome that is in the interest of the people of Guyana. Of course, it has to be based on evidence which comes before us. As of right now, people are responding to reports that are made in the newspaper and that is what we have.”
Questioned on the Government’s take on the situation where only the allocation of these blocks by the former Government is allegedly being investigated and not the farm-ins by other companies which were approved by the current administration, Harmon reiterated that the Government is unaware of any such investigation.
“Government cannot just jump on media reports. We have to be guided by evidence that is adduced and produced by the agency—SARA—and then they will lay a report through the respective Government minister and Cabinet will deliberate on the matter. So, we’re not saying here now whether this is right or that is wrong,” he stated.
“We will be guided by evidence which is produced by the State Asset Recovery Agency or any other law enforcement agency for that matter in Guyana that speaks towards wrongdoing, illegality and that will determine in our view the situation which amounts to a changed circumstance,” he continued.
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, in response to these reported investigations has called it a political shakedown, and insinuated that SARA is attempting to force the oil companies that were awarded the two blocks to support them.
Jagdeo also called for an independent investigation into the award of the blocks, which he said should be conducted by an international and impartial organization.
To date, all of the companies with interest in the blocks under scrutiny say they have not been contacted by SARA or any other agency regarding an investigation.