Former Minister of Natural Resources and Alliance for Change (AFC) executive, Raphael Trotman, would prefer that there be an investigation into the awards of offshore oil blocks by an independent, international firm as industry governance advocate, Global Witness, has recommended.
The attorney-at-law provided this comment, when asked by Kaieteur News yesterday.
Awards of multiple oil blocks have been perceived by some sections of society and political commentators to have been made under suspicious and/or corrupt circumstances, and not in-keeping with the best interests of the Guyanese people.
When it comes to Trotman, the award of Guyana’s most valuable block (Stabroek) has drawn the most controversy, and blame tends to be placed squarely at his feet. He signed the controversial agreement in 2016; a year after ExxonMobil announced its first commercial discovery. Utilizing a ‘bridging deed,’ Trotman granted a new lease to ExxonMobil, as time was running out on the 1999 agreement for the company to make a relinquishment.
The contract was kept from the public, for a year a half after its signing, by the David Granger administration. The then Government had also hid from the public that it received a signing bonus from ExxonMobil, of US$18M, which it kept in a special account.
When the contract was finally revealed and subjected to public scrutiny, it became apparent that its provisions were sub-standard and crafted in such ways that Guyana would suffer significant value leakage. Contentious public debates have been waged for years, including when the contract was highlighted in an early 2020 report by the internationally respected Global Witness.
In its call for an investigation into the award, the anti-corruption watchdog pointed to Trotman’s lavish Exxon-paid trip to its Texas headquarters, querying whether this constituted a conflict of interest. The non-governmental organization also said that Trotman ignored expert advice on multiple occasions, and signed the agreement away in a short period. Most importantly, the firm said that Guyana left US$55B on the table because of its failure to secure a fair deal.
In response, Trotman had told Bloomberg he would release a report on a probe done into the matter, likely to clear his name. The report, done by the British firm Clyde and Co. was never formally released. However, Kaieteur News has seen the document, which painted Trotman in a much less critical light than Global Witness did. For example, Clyde and Co. stated that both the Ministry of Natural Resources (MoNR) and the Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) made several attempts to negotiate improved terms for Guyana, and that the Exxon-led consortium was “not receptive” to the proposed amendments.
Notably, Trotman has admitted that he thinks government should have done better with the deal, but that he was instructed to sign the agreement, though he has never said who gave the instruction. He continues to be hammered in the press for the part he played in these proceedings.
The former minister also recently faced questions from Kaieteur News over the part the Granger administration played in the suspicious awards and transfers of the Canje and Kaieteur blocks. The initial awards were made by the previous Donald Ramotar administration, but it is believed that the Granger administration ignored obvious red flags when it approved transfers of stakes.
Trotman had declined to answer, explaining that he is not in a position to answer, since he – now out of office – did not have access to the documents relating to those transactions.
On the other side of the political aisle, Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo has given no green-light for the independent probes he spoke in support of while Opposition Leader. He recently posited that an internal review being conducted by government into the awards will inform him whether there is a need for an investigation into the Canje and Kaieteur awards. As of now, his view is that no laws were broken and that there was no corruption.