Gifts from the Oil men

I am very lucky to have some very good researchers working for me on a corruption monitoring project that is being sponsored by the Open Society Institute’s Justice Initiative. One of the areas we are investigating is the oil extractive industry and City University student Elena Egawhary is doing an excellent job researching the anti-corruption mechanisms in place within this industry. Last week, she turned some of her findings into an article for the Guardian. Well done Elena!

The full EDU register of oil company hospitality

All in a day’s schmoozing for men from the ministry
Guardian, Friday July 6, 2007
By Elena Egawhary

The hospitality chalets at the All England Lawn Tennis Club have always been synonymous with public relations excess. But the identity of one unexpected recipient of the corporate Pimm’s and strawberries has raised eyebrows among green campaigners.

The giant oil company Chevron has provided an all-expenses-paid day out at Wimbledon for Jim Campbell, the civil servant in charge of regulating Britain’s oil and gas industry, including responsibility for pollution and oil spills.

The company says the invitation is an annual event – Mr Campbell went last year. Although it was coy about disclosing the cost, corporate hospitality firms quote up to £1,000 a head for packages that include the tennis tickets, drinks and meals.

The Wimbledon gift is only one example of the treats oil companies are showering on a single, sensitive, section of the Department of Trade and Industry – now renamed the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Documents obtained from the department’s Energy Development Unit (EDU) show that in the course of a single year, officials were given, among other things, a racing day at Glorious Goodwood. They also got private art views, a trip to the ballet, a golf outing, a party visiting the crown jewels at the Tower of London, tickets to balls, dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a case of champagne from Shell for Christmas.

Officials were also invited to a more conventional round of company banquets, presentations, lunches and dinners, at hotels such as the Savoy and Claridge’s.

From May 4 2006 to April 26 2007, EDU staff received a total of 170 gifts and invitations from companies including Shell, Total, Exxon Mobil, Amerada Hess and Chevron. The hospitality has to be recorded in an EDU register, which has now been disclosed to freedom of information campaigners. It shows that Mr Campbell, the head of the energy unit, recorded receiving a benefit of some kind more than once a month.

The EDU unit, based in London and Aberdeen, has sections dealing with the award of exploration licences, mopping up oil spills, decommissioning of old oil rigs, inspection of offshore installations, permits for private electricity generators, and the encouragement of renewable energy.

A Green party spokesman, Derek Wall, said he disapproved of the gifts and invitations. “It is worrying that so much hospitality is coming from big oil. Clearly the DTI have enjoyed a long list of lavish days out and luxurious gifts at the oil industry’s expense.”

Ewa Jasiewicz, of the ecological campaign group Platform, said: “It seems inappropriate for business entities to offer gifts to public servants.”

But Total said it was important to develop “effective working relationships” between officials and operators who had to work closely together in the offshore industry. “Hospitality events are seen as a normal and universally accepted means of doing this, along with formal meetings.”

Shell sources said the gift of cases of champagne might have been against company policy. The company said: “We are now investigating the circumstances.”

Ode Ltd, a subsidiary of the Italian oil company ENI, declined to comment on their provision of a corporate day at Goodwood races last August for members of the department’s staff, an outing for which corporate hospitality companies charge between £270 to £350.

Days out at Wimbledon and the like are a sensitive subject in Whitehall. Some other government departments have a tough policy. Civil servants at Ministry of Defence buying departments have been banned since 1994 from taking tennis days from arms company suppliers.

Superintendent John Hume, then head of the MoD police fraud squad who was investigating bribery allegations at the time, warned officials: “The idea that you have to go to Wimbledon or the World Cup, or to dinner and then the opera in order to discuss business, is rubbish.”

In a separate case in 2004, the Guardian disclosed that BAE had been giving unauthorised holidays and treats to an official and his wife in DESO, the arms sales unit.

But at the energy division, where there are no allegations of corruption, and no allegations that rules on registration have been flouted, officials take a softer line. The department said yesterday: “The opportunity to have discussions with industry representatives at informal events is extremely valuable.”

A spokesman for the department denied there was anything improper about the invitations. Official guidance allowed “conventional, normal and reasonable” hospitality to be accepted. “It is the department’s view that officials have abided by this code.”
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

One Response to “Gifts from the Oil men”

  1. vaci says:

    David Hencke has posted a good follow-up article on the pay packets in Whitehall:

    Of course, the problem is not so much the amount these mandarins are being paid, but more the fact that their jobs exist at all…

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