Misplaced Local Content Appointment and Conflict of Interest

Misplaced Local Content Appointment and Conflict of Interest

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to your report on President Ali’s appointment of a local content advisory board (KN Aug 28). I applaud the Ali government for finally putting in place this advisory board that was long requested from the Granger led administration. It took almost a month to remove political appointees that should have been gone the first week of Ali’s swearing in. But I wish to point out some misplacement of appointees and possible conflict of interest. KN and Jan Mangal have been on the forefront championing local content and renegotiation of the oil contract, but neither they nor the public were consulted on local content appointments. So much for consultation!

Shyam Nokta has been given the Chair of the Local Content Board. Shyam is son of Harrypersaud Nokta, who is uncle of BK Tiwari and a long time central committee member of PPP and a Minister under Jagan. Shyam is also a life member of PPP. There is nothing illegal of political appointees, but what is happening now is similar to what Granger (2015 and 2020) did and what the PPP (between 2000 and 2015) and Burnham and Hoyte did (between 1965 and 1992). Shyam traveled around with Jagdeo and was in charge of PPP manifesto. Nothing has changed.

Shyam has no experience in local content or in oil. He was involved in environmental matters and rainforest arrangement with Norway. He was advisor to Jagdeo on environmental matters. Shyam obtained a Bachelors degree at UG unlike some (like Robert Persaud) who did not get an undergraduate degree and yet obtained Executive Master’s degree. Shyam studied for MS at Oxford Brookes – a third tier polytechnic college with no link to the prestigious Oxford University where some Guyanese scholars studied. Oxford Brookes profile describes it as a basic skills institution that is not academic but work skills related. One goes to that college for practical skills not to become a scholar like Freddie Kissoon or Nigel Hinds or some of the other writers.

Shyam is proprietor (owner) of an environmental firm. He obtained contracts from Exxon reportedly in millions of US dollars. His company gave the approval for the FDPs of the Stabroek blocks. His company stands to get all future contracts on environmental impacts of Payara and future FDPs. He is now in charge of local content on oil. Is that not a conflict of interest? Shyam said he studied the environment, not oil, and he certainly did not study economics to understand the significance of involving small companies in the oil industry. He never championed local content or spoke out against the excesses or unfairness of the Exxon contract or of the clause that holds Guyana accountable for any disaster relating to oil exploration of production. He gets rewarded for his silence. Those who spoke out against the contract are victimized.

Carl Greenidge is no expert on oil or on related local content. His knowledge on local content is restricted to replacing imported flour with cassava and yams. Greenidge is touted as an economist but the country’s economy grew negatively under his watch. Anthony Paul specializes in local content and with KN a few others have championed the cause. But his native Trinidad rejected his skills, and he found work in Africa. Kevin Ramnarine has experience in oil industry as a Minister for four years though not in the technical aspects. He knows the management aspect of the development of the industry but did not handle matters pertaining to local content. After his party lost power, his country rejected him as an oil specialist. The others on the commission are accountant Floyd Hayes and trade unionist Carvil Duncan, neither of who have experience in local content or on oil. Those who fought for greater local content have been excluded from the board, and those who didn’t have been rewarded. KN has approached to make recommendations for appointments. And Mangal’s skills have been rejected.

I welcome the Payara review being done by Alison Redford and her team. She and her team have legal expertise in reviewing the Exxon FDP in much the same kind of legal expertise in oil of Charles Ramson. Although Ramson did not study the technical and managerial or economic aspects of oil, his diploma in legal aspects of oil from Aberdeen University gives him the skill to oversee the oil Ministry.
Separately, I make reference to the report (Aug 28) on the fake certificate of Althea Padmore who headed SOCU. She got a “Masters” degree from Ashworth College, an online college that is not accredited as a traditional university and whose diploma or transcript is recognized by traditional colleges like UG or UWI. Imagine a person who was charged with investigation of fraud was involved in committing fraud herself. What kind of a society are we building? What kind of government was Mr. Granger running?
What is this about our country accepting fake degrees?

Yours truly,
Nigel Philadelphia

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