Waiver on tax data necessary to complete EITI report – consultant
The collection of data from major Government agencies to assist in the compilation of Guyana’s first Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report has started, but the only challenge lies with being able to get a waiver on tax information from these agencies.
UK-based accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP has been hired as the independent administrator for Guyana’s EITI. Representing the company is Rached Maleej who briefed stakeholders on the task ahead and what could be some of the challenges.
Maleej made a presentation at the opening of a special workshop for “The EITI Reporting Mechanism, Methodology and Process” on Tuesday. Pointing to the most significant challenge, Maleej said confidentiality is one, particularly as it relates to the release of tax information.
At present, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is unable to release taxpayer information to third parties to compile and consolidate revenues and expenditures from Private Sector entities unless it is authorised by an entity or the President, according to local laws.
But this information is pertinent to BDO’s work to compile the reconciliation report which will include information on operations and procedures of Guyana’s mining, forestry and oil and gas sectors.
The EITI requires a comprehensive reconciliation of company payments and Government revenues from the extractive industries. An understanding of company payments and these revenues can inform public debate about the governance of the extractive industries. It also points to advancing transparency.
While the consultant acknowledged that this issue is not unique to Guyana, he did say that Government could ask the local companies to grant waivers for the GRA to release their tax information and identities. “For the major players, we can obtain a waiver. We can try to contact them and try to get a no-objection signature,” he explained.
As for other agencies, Maleej said an independent administrator could sign a confidentiality agreement and work on the information and presenting the report, which should be approved by the Multi-Stakeholder Group. This information could be presented without breaking the laws, he added.
According to the BDO consultant, his company would need a comprehensive list of all the valid and active players in Guyana since 2017 from these agencies.
“This is the crucial information. This is the cornerstone of the entire EITI standard because if we do not have it, we have no assurance on the comprehensiveness,” he told the gathering.
Maleej said the work will be done in a six-phase process and would include an analysis of all the major Private Sector players in the local oil and gas sector. The aim is to identify through data, the taxes and payment flow to Government and whether there is any level of discrepancies.
The process requires the Private and Public Sector entities to complete templates by a deadline after which no more information would be accepted.
He also cautioned Government against rushing to include the fisheries and forestry sector to the EITI process because of the need for the related agencies to be restructured in line with the Initiative’s standards.
This is critical to BDO LLP’s work, which is to match the earnings and expenses of all major Government agencies in the extractive sector and help compile the EITI report.
Data is now being collected from GRA, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Gold Board, the Finance Ministry, National Insurance Scheme and the Environmental Protection Agency as well as nine oil and gas, and 25 mining companies.
The deadline for the report is April 25, 2019.
Guyana became the 52nd country to join the global standard last October. EITI seeks to promote tenets of good governance, transparency and accountability in the management of the extractive industries.
EITI is recognised as a global standard to promote the open and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources. The standard requires the disclosure of information along the extractive industry value chain from the point of extraction to how revenues progress through the Government and how they benefit the public.