Guyana’s Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo today (Friday), during his 2018 Budget presentation, called for the entire Government to resign over revelations that a special account has been set up to funnel millions it received from oil giant ExxonMobil.
The call also came after the Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman was forced to admit that the Government indeed received monies from the oil company, which it said will be used to help fight its case regarding the border controversy with Venezuela.
However, in his presentation today, Jagdeo slammed the Government, in particular the Natural Resources Minister, for not being forthright with the Guyanese public on the issue from the inception.
The Opposition Leader said the APNU/AFC Administration has been talking quite a lot about transparency and accountability but is doing quite the opposite, based on its actions.
The Opposition Leader was firm that the signing bonus from the oil giant is Government revenue and therefore ought to have been in an account with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) or the Consolidated Fund.
He noted that having the money in a separate account is a clear breach of the country’s financial laws, noting that the funds should have been reflected in the budget; but that was not done.
Although Finance Minister Winston Jordan had claimed that there was no advance payment made to the Government by ExxonMobil, a confidential document now proves that the Administration was fully aware of receiving the signing bonus granted by the same company, while a request was also made to open an account at the Central Bank to facilitate a deposit.
A missive dated September 20, 2016 and addressed to the Governor of the Bank of Guyana has this subject: “Signing bonus granted by ExxonMobil – Request to open bank account”. It shows that Finance Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Hector Butts, had requested that a foreign currency account be opened at the Bank in order to receive a deposit in the form of a ‘signing bonus’ to be given by ExxonMobil.
The letter stated, “This account should not be treated as part of the Bank’s reserves. Instead, the proceeds should be held in the currency of the deposit, that is United States dollars, and invested in secured interest-bearing securities.”
At a press conference held two weeks ago, Jagdeo demanded that Government come clean on this signing bonus, stating that he could ‘reasonably confirm’ that it was true.