Bar Association among “most consulted” organisations on draft Local Content Bill – AG

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has outright debunked a statement by the Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana that it did not receive adequate consultation on the Local Content Bill which was passed into law on Wednesday.
In setting the record straight, Nandlall said, “My understanding is that the Bar Association was one of the most consulted organisations. They participated for several months in several engagements which I consider to be consultations.”
For instance, he said, he and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, and Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat attended a consultative engagement at the Pegasus Hotel with a number of local organisations, including representatives of the Bar Association.
Speaking on the “elaborate” interactions that were had with the Bar Association on the Local Content Bill were Senior Petroleum Coordinator at the Natural Resources Ministry, Bobby Gossai, and the Ministry’s Legal Officer, Michael Munroe.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC

According to Gossai, they met with the Bar Council and members of the Association for “quite a number of engagements” since March 2021, when the Draft Local Content Policy was presented.
Afterward, he said, the Ministry engaged in strategic consultations with different bodies, associations and groups, with the Bar Association being one of those. “We have been engaging them since March all the way up until [Wednesday] on the policy into the draft Bill that we have,” the Economist related.
He added that they have been receiving active correspondence from the Bar Association from April, earlier this month, and up to Wednesday. The Senior Petroleum Coordinator noted that they have been forwarding comments to the Bar on where they were taking the policy and going with the Local Content Bill.

President of the Guyana Bar Association, Attorney-at-Law Pauline Chase

Importantly, he pointed out, the Bar was given assurance that there were going to be consultations with different representatives, industry associations, and other bodies as they continue to develop Guyana’s local content institutional framework and the local content reporting mechanism.
The Bar Association on Wednesday decried the time allotted to review the circulated Local Content Policy, saying it was not sufficient for considered comments and engagements, and falls well below the legal minimum standard for meaningful consultation.
“The said Bill is expected to be passed in the National Assembly soon, and possibly as early as [Wednesday]. That is some eight working days after its publication and during the Christmas holiday season,” said the Bar in a statement issued on Wednesday.
It noted that a draft copy of the Bill was not made available to the Bar Association prior to its publication, as is usually the course for consideration and comment; same touching and concerning legal services.

Senior Petroleum Coordinator at the Natural Resources Ministry, Bobby Gossai

With less than one working day’s notice, the Bar Association has said, it was invited to a meeting, along with other bodies, to discuss the Bill. Discussions convened without having the benefit of a draft Bill, the missive added.
The statement continued, “Notwithstanding the short notice, tight timeline, and absence of the proposed Bill, the Bar Association made submissions thereon. Since the publication of the Bill, the Bar Association has sought further engagement, made comments, and raised queries to which there has been no considered response despite the undertaking to do so by 2:15 pm on 28th December 2021.”
The Bar Council has also taken issue with comments made by the Attorney General during debates in the National Assembly. The comments, the Bar Council noted, gave the impression that “Guyanese Legal Practitioners do not have the capacity and/or are not qualified to handle matters which he described as ‘technical legal documents’ and ‘joint venture agreements’, as a seeming justification for the target of 90% instead of the requested 100% by the Bar Association.”
The Bar said, too, that the statement further gives the impression that persons who are not duly admitted to practise law in Guyana under the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) may do so by performing legal services.
The association further pointed out that it completely rejects Nandlall’s “ill-informed” comments, particularly since “we have not, despite requests, not been told what areas of law members of the Bar are not qualified to practice (there being no such limitation in the LPA), and who is to provide the other 10 per cent.”
However, Nandlall is maintaining his statement. In fact, he said, “We have said repeatedly that 90 percent is a temporary benchmark that we are setting…I know the Bar Association feels that they know a lot of law and that they can do everything under the sun, but as a Government, we have to be careful; these contracts, they’re complicated, they’re complex, they have aberration clauses that are complicated.
Considering this, the Attorney General insisted, “We do not have the skill to do it in Guyana, and I maintained that I don’t know that we have in Guyana 100% competency in relation to all legal matters.”
The Bar Association has since pointed out that members of the Bar, including Senior Counsel, have already performed the services Nandlall is speaking about.