GRA promises rigid monitoring of exploration companies

– remains committed to oil & gas industry

Iterating its steadfast commitment to fulfilling its obligations as one of the regulatory bodies for the rapidly emerging oil and gas sector in Guyana, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has said that part of that commitment involves the imposition of rigid systems to closely monitor companies that are undertaking exploration and extraction of oil offshore, in keeping with the contractual agreement between the Guyana Government and those oil exploration companies, including US oil giant ExxonMobil.
The GRA has said, however, that while it would be privy to sensitive information in regard to the discharge of its duties, same would be treated with confidentiality, and only necessary details would be shared with officers.
“The Commissioner-General will only share such excerpts of the said agreement with relevant officers in the event that their duties require them being privy to such information in the execution of such duties,” the tax body said on Thursday.
The GRA has said that its position takes into consideration a number of factors, chief among which are sensitivity and confidentiality of the documents, and the level of caution that has to be imposed to guard against persistent breaches of the Secrecy Oath at the Authority.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had recently opined that although Government has moved to create a special unit at the GRA to deal with the oil and gas sector, the revenue collecting body would be unable to manage the invoices from ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies.
Jagdeo said the move to create this special unit paints a perfect picture that Government is getting ready for the new sector, but that does not defend the best interest of the country.
“If the GRA doesn’t even have the capacity to conduct audits on many of our businesses now, something has to be wrong. GRA is collecting our taxes. We have to have a unit that is properly staffed; that has people with experience in dealing with the petroleum industry, who can say, ‘This service we are buying here, we are aware that it could be competitively sourced from another place at same quality’,” Jagdeo has said.
Jagdeo has declared that he has no confidence in the GRA to manage the task. “They are struggling to go after people to collect Value Added Tax (VAT), and even complex local invoices they can’t handle,” he reasoned. “I would have preferred (that for) an industry that has long-term implications, (the situation) would have been dealt with in a more apolitical fashion; but when you try to raise issues of a technical nature…,” Jagdeo bemoaned.
He restated the reasons why the Opposition would not support the Petroleum Commission Bill, stressing that it gives the minister too much power in giving the minister responsible for petroleum the authority to terminate the Board of the Commission at any time.
The minister would also be granted the power to discharge the functions of the Board if the Board is not appointed.
On that basis, Jagdeo said, the oil and gas model being developed by the current Administration, “will not allow us to build strong technical capacity.
“So that is the huge problem we have with the approach with this Government,” he explained.