Several anticorruption advocates are convinced that ExxonMobil’s US$18M bonus should have been placed into the Consolidated Fund as opposed to a special account at Central Bank.
But Finance Minister, Winston Jordan disagrees. He insists that the decision taken by Government to use a special account is one that is above board and is representative of the Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
Jordan told Kaieteur News that the bonus is for a specific purpose; to help in the matter of protecting Guyana’s territorial integrity.
He said that if a decision is made to go to the World Court on this matter, the Government will have to pay lawyers to fight its case and this will be at a considerable cost.
In that regard, he said that the Government would go to the National Assembly with a supplementary budget. He said that the money needed to fund the lawyers for example, would be pulled from the special deposit account, transferred to the Consolidated Fund and removed from there once the supplementary budget is passed.
The Finance Minister said, “…If we don’t go to the World Court and there are no further expenses and there is a decision that this course has been abandoned or stopped, then we can transfer the entire amount to the Consolidated Fund.
“Having done so, the entire amount would be swallowed up in the Consolidated Fund…”
The economist continued, “At the moment, the Consolidated Fund is in heavy overdraft and all that money will do is reduce it…if we were to transfer the entire amount, roughly $3.6B, two things would happen. We would be selling foreign currency to Bank of Guyana thereby increasing its reserves and our overdraft will reduce…”
Jordan added, “So it is not a case where we have monies to fund more projects or pay more wages. The long and short of it is that our 2018 budget suggests that we are borrowing roughly $50M. (If we transfer the bonus to the Consolidated Fund), we would just end up borrowing around $40M.”
The Finance Minister emphasized that from the time the money was received it was placed into the system immediately and it continues to be managed by Bank of Guyana.
Chartered Accountant, Chris Ram believes that signing bonus scandal has become a criminal matter.
The Chartered Accountant said, “May I add here that when in Opposition, this Government, and very specifically the AFC of which Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman is now leader, had repeatedly claimed that former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, should be taken before the courts on a criminal charge under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.”
He continued, “It is as clear as day to me that offences have been committed under Section 85 of that Act by more than one person. This is now a criminal matter and the Guyana Police Force should be called in.
“It should be clear that as much as one half of the potential public revenues of this country should not be left in the control of Ministers engaged in criminal and other improper conduct.”
Ram added, “This Administration has disappointingly shown that such standards of common decency, let alone integrity, do not apply to it and its Ministers. So what about the longer term?
“Well, in a significant transaction with ExxonMobil – with which they need to operate on an arm’s length basis – these same Ministers have shown a willingness to engage in a conspiracy of deception on the people of this country.”
The anticorruption advocate said that ExxonMobil has a monopoly of known and established oil production of Guyana for the foreseeable future. He said that those Ministers cannot be trusted to engage any person, let alone an oil giant who knows that the persons who engage and are required to oversee its conduct are compromised and that their conduct borders on corruption.
It was only a few weeks ago that Ram commended the government on ushering the return of transparency with the promised release of the ExxonMobil oil contract this month. In light of this signing bonus with the USA oil company, Ram said that the administration has revealed its true self and his kudos were premature and misplaced.
According to Opposition Member, Juan Edghill, the signing bonus scandal signals three worrying things: the APNU+AFC Party is unrepentant, shameless and has mastered the art of deception.
Edghill said that the matter has cemented the fact that the government cannot be trusted with the nation’s resources.
The politician continued, “Now let us examine what is the real issue here. David Granger, as President, and his Cabinet, solicited, received and stashed monies from ExxonMobil. It was never brought to book, placed into the Consolidated Fund or in any Fund that requires parliamentary permission to expend by way of an Appropriation Act.”
The Opposition Member added, “It meant that they, at all material times, intended to utilize that money without the notice, approval or knowledge of the people of Guyana. Monies that are public, when placed into an account, be it statutory body or the Consolidated Fund, the level of accountability is at the National Assembly.”
Edghill on this note criticized the fact that the Government has chosen to create a special account to hold the US$18M bonus as opposed to placing it into the Consolidated Fund. He insists that this can only be described as an act of executive lawlessness.
The Opposition Member also noted that Finance Minister, Winston Jordan seems unwilling to practice any level of accountability.
Edghill commented that the Government must make public, evidence of the transfer of the moneys from ExxonMobil into the bank account.
He said, “Government has been caught with their hands in the cookie jar…This is not something they can be forgiven for, or have it called a misunderstanding of financial laws or newness to government. People have lost confidence in this administration. It is deception to the core and every member of government must be held accountable for this…”
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