The Grenada Government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has given the Senate some scanty information on the island’s oil and gas development involving the Russian outfit known as Global Petroleum Group (GPG), the state of affairs with the planned Inquiry into alleged wrongdoing at the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) and the cost of the failed referendum to try and make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the final appellate court on the island.
Minister of Climate Affairs, Senator Simon Stiell provided some answers on GPG and MNIB to outstanding questions presented to the Upper House of Parliament by Senator Ron Redhead of the main opposition National Democratic Congress.
THE NEW TODAY was able to obtain a copy of the responses given by Sen. Stiell at the sitting that was presided over by President Chester Humphrey.
Following are excerpts from the Senate sitting on the issue:
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Alright, thank you. Mr. President. I have the following questions through you to the Leader of Government’s Business, Senator Simon Stiell. And the first question, Mr. President, reads:
(a) Would the Leader of Government’s Business inform the Senate of the present status of the inquiry into the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB)?
(b) In doing so, would the Leader of Government’s Business provide the House with the names of the members of the body currently conducting the investigation?
(c) Was a financial audit completed in accordance with Section 82 of the Public Finance Management Act on MNIB for the periods 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018?
(d) Did the Financial Intelligence Unit FIU investigate MNIB at any time during the period 2013 to 2018?
(e) Would the findings of the investigation be made available to the Senate?
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell: Thank you, Mr. President. So in response to part (a) will the Leader of Government’s Business inform the Senate of the present status of inquiry into MNIB? The answer is: The Integrity Commission is an independent one in accordance with Sections 12 sub-section (2) (a) and Section 13 of the Integrity in Public Life Act. Therefore a response to these questions are as follows:
An inquiry is to be carried out by the Integrity Commission. In the meantime, its internal investigations team is gathering information to facilitate the inquiry process.
(b) The question was, in doing so, would the Leader of Government’s Business provide the House with the names of the members of the body currently conducting the investigation. Information gathering is being carried out by the said investigations team in order to facilitate the impending Commission of Inquiry.
Howbeit, it has been determined that the Inquiry is to be carried out by the Commissioners who are Lady Anande-Trotman Joseph (Chairman), Mr. Robert Robertson (Deputy Chairman), Ms. Jasmine Redhead (Commissioner), Mr. Bertie Hill (Commissioner), Mr. Winston James (Commissioner), Mr. Philbert Charles (Commissioner) and Mrs Oforiwa Augustine (Commissioner).
(c) Was a financial audit completed in accordance with Section 82 of the Public Finance Management Act on the MNIB for the periods 2013, 2014, 2015 to 2018? The answer: Inquiry itself is now the subject of court proceedings and therefore the Commission at this time does not wish to preempt inquiry or prejudice the court proceedings by commenting on issues which are sub judice.
(d) Did the FIU investigate MNIB at any time during the period 2013 to 2018?
The answer: An ongoing investigation by national law enforcement agencies may be referable to the impending Commission of Inquiry. However the inquiry itself is now the subject of court proceedings and therefore at this time the Commission does not wish to preempt matters touching and concerning national law enforcement investigations inquiry or prejudice a court proceedings by commenting on an issue which is sub judice.
Will the findings of the investigation be made available to the Senate?
The response: The findings of the impending Commission of Inquiry may be shared upon completion of the Commission’s work once officially requested by the Senate.
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Mr. President, with your guidance I would like to find out – are there chances and opportunities to ask follow up questions on any questions?
Mr. President: Yes.
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Well, Mr. President, in relation to part (c) and part (d) a simple yes or no in my view would have sufficed, but I would just like to know whether or not the FIU or a financial audit was conducted for these periods, that’s part (c), and in relation to part (d), a simple yes or no again, we would just like to know, Mr. President, whether or not the FIU investigated the Marketing Board during these periods?
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell: Mr. President, I answered, I responded to both of those questions and I stand by the answers that were provided.
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Yes, well Mr. President, I am reminded that. Mr. President, question 2, part (a): Would the Leader of Government’s Business inform the Senate on the terms of the current oil and gas exploration arrangement or contract with Global Petroleum Group and are any other partners involved with oil and gas explorations in Grenada’s waters?
Part (b) to the same question, question 2, what economic benefits does Grenada stand to gain from the current oil and gas exploration or arrangement or contract with GPG and or any other entity?
Part (c), would Grenada be compensated for loss and or damage to the environment and marine life arising from any event connected with the ongoing exploration?
Mr. President: Senator Stiell.
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell: Mr. President, in response to part (a) the Global Petroleum Group (GPG) has a twenty (20) year development license to develop four (4) blocks in Grenadian waters. GPG has partnered with a Chinese company Guangzhou to make the two million ($2m), two billion US dollar ($2B) investment required to extract the petroleum in the subsea areas and sell to the National Gas Company (NGC) of Trinidad and Tobago which necessitates the construction of a pipeline between the point of extraction, (if not maybe two), in the Grenadian waters to an existing platform in Trinidadian waters.
Over the period of the license, all viable wells in the four Blocks already identified will be developed. Viability depends on, among other things, on the world price of petroleum products at that point in time. Seismic surveys are also being undertaken in another four blocks, this will lead to exploration and possible development based on the results of the survey.
In response to (b) the economic benefits; Mr. President, at this early stage in the exploration process, with a need for significant production and development investment and subject to the price of oil and gas rising to acceptable levels on the world market, to ensure commercial viability, it’s not possible to quantify the specific benefits that will be derived.
Caution must therefore be used at this time in making forward predictions. However it is anticipated that with favourable geological seismic and commercial conditions, Grenada stands to gain significantly from the returns and reinvestment in the areas of Agriculture, especially value-added as Government will be able to invest in plants and equipment, ICT technology, bringing jobs to our youthful population, reductions in the price of electricity, energy that will spur foreign direct investment and economic growth and more opportunities in education for our people.
In response to (c) Would Grenada be compensated for loss or damage to the environment, etc. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Deposit Act and Regulations under which exploration development takes place makes provision for the insurance against accidents and sets the standard for environmentally sensitive operations. The insurance must be to the satisfaction of the State and meet international standards.
Mr. President: Just let me draw to the Senate’s attention – Standing Order 18… 18 (g) and maybe I should just read some excerpts of it so that that would help to elucidate some points. Under Standing Order 18 – Contents of Questions, (g) says, “a question shall not be asked, roman numeral 5 (v), (iv)” …sorry of (g), which says… which deals and I quote, “which deals with matters referred to a Commission of Enquiry or within the jurisdiction of the Chairman of a Select Committee”, Roman Numeral (vi) or “about any matter then pending before the Court of Justice, or which reflects on the Decisions of the Court of Justice”.
So a question may not be asked about any matter then pending before any Court of Justice or which reflects on the Decisions of a Court of Justice. I just thought that I should bring this to the attention, these are the rules, so Members could be advised accordingly. Yes, Senator.
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Yes. Mr. President, thanks very much for the clarity, but I would like to say that the questions were in fact posed before any Court matter in relation to the first question Marketing Board was … you know, going through whatever commission and so on, it was not set up at the time and we ask the questions there.
Mr. President, I have a follow-up question in question 2 part (a) based on the response we got, so there was a previous contract with GPG, I would just like to know if it’s the same contract or if it’s a different contract. And, Mr. President, in part (b) I’m sorry, yes, part (b) of question 2.
Mr. President: Well let’s just take part (a) first and give the Leader of Government’s Business an opportunity to respond.
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell: All I’m in a position to comment on, Mr. President, is the terms of the current Agreement and again, this Agreement is, it is a confidential commercial Agreement. So it’s not an agreement that at this time is in the public domain and it is not unusual that this is the case. These are commercial negotiations – Grenada is competing with other countries – Guyana have their oil and gas activities ongoing.
The issue of… from both exploration, production and development is based on commercial sensitivities that either attract investments or do not. So the precise terms of these agreements at this time where it’s still very early in the exploration, production development of the development phase and is not subject to public perusal at this time.
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Yes Mr. President, so alright. Mr. President, question 3, so I will cancel the follow-up question that I had in relation to question 2. Mr. President, question 3 part (a) what was the cost to the Government of Grenada for the referendum, of course, at the time just held? Part (b) Mr. President, did the CCJ Advisory Committee have a budget? Part (c) If yes, what was the Quantum of the budget and part (d) what was the source of funding for the Advisory Committee to carry out its functions?
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell: Thank you, Mr. President. With regards to cost, the cost to Government up to the 31st of December 2018 was one hundred and ninety six thousand dollars ($196,000). Did the CCJ Advisory Committee have a budget? The answer to that is yes. If yes, what was the quantum of that budget? The budget was two hundred and ten thousand dollars ($210,000), and what was the source of funding to the Advisory Committee; it was the Government of Grenada?
Mr. President: Senator Redhead.
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Yes, Mr. President. Mr. President, so the Committee was funded in fact, by the Government of Grenada in the sum of $210,000, if I am correct and it cost the Government…
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell: That is not correct. The Budget, the Budget was $210,000 what was provided was a hundred and ninety six thousand ($196,000).
Sen. the Hon. Ron Redhead: Okay, Mr. President, herein ends the series of questions, but Mr. President, I just wanted some further clarity. I saw you quoted the Standing Orders. In relation to the questions, now in this regard, the first question I would not have been able to know that it cannot be, I think we would have needed guidance from the House to ask us not to submit such a question.
So, Mr. President, in relation to that at least some explanation should have been given that it was in breach in fact of the Standing Orders and could not be placed on the Order Paper.