The Petroleum Ministry yesterday denied accusations that the government`s tender procedures are being manipulated to involve the Norwegians in the ambitious oil exploration project. `There is absolutely no truth in this,` Secretary to the Ministry of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Development A. P. A. Gunasekera said. As Secretary to the Ministry, he functions as Chairman of the ministerial procurement committee tasked to select consultancy services.
Seismic data shows more than 1.0 billion barrels of oil lie under the sea off North West coast, in the Gulf of Mannar, near the Kavery Basin.
He acknowledged that there was criticism of the ongoing process of selection of a consultant to finalize what the ministerial committee termed the model petroleum resources agreement and bid documents to develop a computer model for fiscal analysis and marketing of the upcoming Mannar basin licensing round. The closing date which was originally scheduled for March 15 was subsequently extended to March 23 (tomorrow).
Critics have accused the Petroleum Ministry of conspiring to involve the Norwegians through the Maharaja Corporation. In a letter addressed to some MPs, they claimed that this deal would be detrimental to the national interest. They expressed the belief that the ultimate beneficiary would be the LTTE. Gunasekera dismissed the allegation.
`If they are genuinely concerned, they should contact the relevant authorities,` he said. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Criminal Investigation Department and the Special Presidential Investigation Unit would initiate investigations. He urged them to lodge complaints without further delay.
Gunasekera said President Mahinda Rajapakse was aware of the status of the project, the Economic Council too was briefed of the progress on Tuesday (20) at Temple Trees.
Petroleum Resources Development Minister A.H.M. Fowzie Tuesday said the government has called for worldwide tenders to evaluate and prepare profit sharing agreements. According to him several international oil companies that do business with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had been notified of the developments.
Fowzie said that the oil deposits in the Mannar Basin had been divided into eight lots with two granted to India and China without tenders taking friendly ties into consideration.
`And we have granted them both the best possible terms outside open Tenders and requested each to deposit US$ 100 Million as an advance and US$ 19 million as the Bonus (Bond)`