Int’l expert was envisioned to head Guyana’s Energy Department – Fmr Presidential Advisor

(From L to R) Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, former Adviser on Petroleum, Dr. Jan Mangal and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman during a meeting at State House in March, 2017. (Ministry of the Presidency Photo)

When initial discussions took place on what the requirements should be for the person to head Guyana’s new Department of Energy, expertise in the area of oil and gas was one of the main criteria.

Speaking to OilNOW from Houston, Texas on Tuesday, Dr Jan Mangal, former Petroleum Advisor to President David Granger, said he worked on the implementation plan for the new department, under which the petroleum portfolio has been transferred from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

“In the implementation plan in March; that plan had envisioned a different view on the roles and responsibilities and qualifications for the Head. Now, since March that may have changed and I am not privy to the latest plan for the new department,” he pointed out.

The person that was envisioned, Dr Mangal said, “was a minister or vice-minister from an oil and gas producing country with an impeccable track record. Also, someone who had significant experience in the industry and in government because we saw that position as someone who could talk shop with the likes of Tillerson (former ExxonMobil CEO) or a minister in Canada or the UK…to talk oil and gas. But that has changed and there is a different kind of model now for how the department will run.”

Dr Mark Bynoe, an Environment and Resource Economist, was appointed by President Granger to head the department, effective August 1, 2018. State Minister, Joseph Harmon told reporters at a recent press briefing that Dr Bynoe will be supported by persons with the requisite skills and Knowledge. “Dr Bynoe doesn’t have to be a world-class expert on everything. He is now going to head up a team that will identify the specific skills which we need for the department and we are going to pay for that,” Harmon said.

Dr Mangal agrees that once staffed with experts in the field, the department could effectively execute its mandate. “There is no reason why it could not work with Dr Bynoe there. Once he brings in the oil and gas qualified people – he has different qualifications – but once he brings them in and focuses on that, it could work.”

He said the Department of Energy may be the last opportunity for the Guyana government “to get the oil and gas situation under control” since a lack of expertise on the ground has hampered preparations for the development of the sector.

“For the last three years, the Ministry of Natural Resources did not have the people on the ground. Now with this new department, hopefully, their focus is to go out there as soon as possible and get the expertise that is needed,” he said.