By Michael Younge
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has rejected all of the excuses put forward by the coalition Government to justify its decision to stash over $18MUS, which was paid by ExxonMobil as a bonus, in a secret account.
Jagdeo is standing by his gut feeling and the facts surrounding the discovery that the Government hid millions of US dollars in a secret bank account without telling the public or parliament.
He believes that the decision to store the monies outside the Consolidated Fund is illegal, irregular and wreaks corruption. Jagdeo will accept no explanation for the Government’s illegality.
He wants the money deposited in the treasury where it belongs.
On Thursday, he also stressed during a press conference that his party has always placed monies in funds covered by the law. The same, he noted, cannot be said for the signing bonus which was placed in an account outside of the consolidated fund and the purview of the Auditor General.
“They said that the lotto fund (monies) should have been transferred to the consolidated fund. (They said) we shouldn’t have kept monies in the lotto fund, the GGMC, in the housing fund, the forestry commission, NFMU (National Frequency Management Unit). Now every single one of those agencies had special funds set up by legislation. That is by acts of parliament.”
“And so they were provided for by the FMAA (Fiscal Management and Accountability Act). The FMAA says you can pay money into the consolidated fund, into special accounts created by legislation. So all of those were created by legislation; or the third aspect, you can pay it into a deposit fund,” he reported.
Jagdeo noted that while his party when in Govt has never put public monies where it wasn’t covered by law, the coalition government has done so in less than three years.
“In less than three years, they’ve paid US$18M in revenue in an account not provided for by constitution or law,” Jagdeo said. “(These are) totally different situations. So all the spin by DPI and the Ministers about how this happened before, it never happened before under the PPP. Let’s clear that (up)”, he argued.
While addressing the National Assembly, Foreign Affairs Minister Greenidge had insisted that no laws were broken. He had referenced the fact that Section 37 (2) of the FMAA provides for public monies to be held in Extra Budgetary Funds and Deposit funds… that is, until they are credited to the Consolidated Fund.
But Jagdeo pointed out that the FMA Act in fact contradicts Greenidge, who is a former Minister of Finance. Section 42 mandates that after a deposit fund is established, the Minister has to inform the National Assembly of the fund’s existence, purpose and banking arrangements.
The account for the signing bonus was set up at the Central Bank, not by Act of Parliament or legislation, but by request from the Ministry of Finance. The transaction first came to light in a leaked correspondence dated September 20, 2016 and addressed to the Governor of the Bank of Guyana.