SARA oil blocks probeReiterating an earlier position that a reputable international firm should carry out any probe into the award of oil blocks offshore Guyana and not the Clive Thomas-led State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is insisting that in order for such an investigation to be credible, there needs to be defined scope and terms of reference.Jagdeo explained to reporters at his recent weekly press conference that this is the only way that the Opposition People’s Progressive Party will support the investigation. However, he noted that the Private Sector and oil stakeholders will have to be added to the process since they are the ones who will be most affected by the probe.“I think we should work out like national terms of reference – get everyone together. So, get the Private Sector, get the political parties and they do clear terms of reference so that everybody is at one on this and the scope of the investigation should cover everyone… and then you maybe approach an international organisation of repute to do this. I can’t tell you exactly whom but somebody who is not part of our landscape that can bring an impartial view that all sides – the oil companies, as well the Government of Guyana and the people of Guyana will have credibility in,” the Opposition Leader noted.According to Jagdeo, this will ensure that no one is treated unfairly or feel that the probe is a witch hunt against them.Last month Professor Thomas had disclosed that the agency is looking into the award of the blocks by the Donald Ramotar Administration before the 2015 General and Regional elections.However, Jagdeo had previously said that the PPP welcomes the probe since it has nothing to hide but noted that they will only support it if it is done by an independent international firm.When asked whether this suggestion will be taken under consideration, Government’s spokesperson Joseph Harmon told Guyana Times when contacted last week that he could not say since Cabinet was not briefed on the probe by SARA.In fact, he repeated this during the post-Cabinet press briefing on Friday, saying “We have not had a report from SARA with respect to the nature and extent of their investigations”.Harmon, the Director General at the Ministry of the Presidency, pointed out to reporters that SARA is an independent agency and operates on its own. However, he noted that Government will support the agency in pursuing the necessary actions if breaches or acts of illegality are found but there needs to be credible evidence of this.“Government will be prepared to throw its weight behind the agency so that we have an outcome that is in the interest of the people of Guyana. Of course, it has to be based on evidence which comes before us. As of right now, people are responding to reports that are made in the newspaper and that is what we have” Harmon contended.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoOn May 22, an article appeared in the New York-based Bloomberg website, in which the SARA Director was quoted confirming that there was a probe ongoing. According to Thomas, the probe was in its early stages and would be centred on the award of blocks and licences to ExxonMobil and Tullow.Thomas was quoted by Bloomberg as saying “we’re investigating the issuance of the licences, for example, and the various blocks. We’re building up a case. This is an area of investigation into how the blocks were allocated and the decisions that were made”.However, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) said that this investigation can harm Guyana by discouraging potential investors from vying for future oil blocks.Head of the GCCI’s Petroleum arm, Charles Ramson had expressed worry over the impact these revelations have on Guyana’s image especially since the article appeared in Bloomberg, which meant that thousands in the global business community would have read this unsavoury news.Meanwhile, GCCI President Nicholas Boyer decried the haphazard way in which the investigation is being done. He also noted that the investigation is being done at a time when much of the regulatory framework for the industry has not even been set up.“At this point, I think we’re shooting in the dark. I think SARA is wasting its time because of the lack of having a petroleum commission in place, lack of policies saying how it’s going to issue future blocks and approach relinquishment.”SARA is said to be investigating the award of concessions in the Canje and Kaieteur Blocks offshore Guyana. The Canje Block was awarded to JHI, Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas, and Ratio Energy in March 2015, a few months before the national elections.