Jun 01, 2019 News Comments Off on Transfer of US$18M signing bonus occurred at “appropriate time” – Harmon
In light of the recent revelation by Kaieteur News that the government transferred the controversial US$18M signing bonus
it got in 2016 to the Consolidated Fund this year, critics were wondering why this was not done in the first place.
Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon answered this question at a press conference yesterday, saying that it was not the right time. The official said that government was never opposed to it being placed into the Consolidated Fund, but said that it would be done at the “appropriate time” which happened to be January last.
Harmon said that budget-related matters, the coming of oil and the passage of the Natural Resource Fund law were factors that influenced the transfer this year.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan told Kaieteur News on Thursday afternoon that the transfer was without prejudice to the pending High Court ruling on whether keeping the signing bonus outside of the Consolidated Fund is lawful.
In addition to this, documents seen by Kaieteur News reveal that when the government received the bonus from Exxon, it was placed into an account at Central Bank which subsequently opened a special account to manage proceeds from investments.
In November 2016, US$15.8M was transferred to the investment account and expended to purchase overseas bonds. The balance of US$2.176M stayed in a cash account.
This newspaper understands that the Government earned an interest of US$498,775 from its investments during the period November 2016 to December 2018. The interest on the cash account totaled US$2,889.
On December 28, 2018, Bank of Guyana received instructions from the Finance Ministry to transfer US$3.78M from the cash account to the Consolidated Fund. This left the cash account with a balance of US$112,480. Furthermore, in January last, the value of government’s investments appreciated to US$14.545M from US$414.477M.
The Bank subsequently received instructions to transfer all moneys being held to the Consolidated Fund. The total transfer was US$18.480M.
The transfer occurred before the High Court ruled that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed.
Several anticorruption advocates such as Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram and Transparency International Guyana Inc. have been extremely critical of the government for keeping the money out of the Consolidated Fund and in a special account at Central Bank.
But Minister Jordan had insisted that the decision taken by Government to use a special account was one that was above board and was representative of its commitment to transparency and accountability.
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