US$15M from oil bonus set aside for border case, says Greenidge

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Cabinet has given its approval for US$15 million from the controversial signing bonus that Government received from U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil to be used towards the border controversy case with Venezuela.

This disclosure was made by Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge on Tuesday during a press conference at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Georgetown office.

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge on Tuesday during a press conference at his Ministry

While Government had initially received US$18 million, Greendige said it was decided by Government that part of that bonus could be used for the legal challenge, even though the current sum may be inadequate.

Asked by this media entity whether any of the monies set aside for the matter has been spent, the Minister said none of it was expended.

In March of this year, while Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman did not confirm nor deny allegations that the signing bonus might have been transferred from a private account at the Central Bank, or spent, the Minister did reiterate that the monies were put aside to deal with a specific matter.

His comments were solicited after Guyanese economist Ramon Gaskin speculated that the oil bonus was “spent unlawfully and without the approval of the National Assembly.”

“The Bank of Guyana has published the list of 128 Government Account Balances at the end of January 2018 in excess of 36 billion Guyana dollars.” Gaskin said that “the US$18M ‘Signing Bonus’ received by Guyana and allegedly placed in the account is not listed”.

He had called on Government to provide an explanation.

Commenting on the issue, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had said that the manner in which the Government dealt with this matter, since the money was kept secret until it was brought to the public’s attention through the media, was upsetting.

“I think the way they treated the US$18 million knowing that it was illegally kept out of all Government accounts, so it could not be audited, once it is not formally in Government accounts. Then the Auditor General would not be able to audit it. That it was parked in that way, to be stolen. So while parts of it may be used to pay a lawyer et cetera, we would have seen inflated bills and a whole range of other issues…expenditure that would have used up all the money and it would have gone into peoples accounts” Jagdeo had explained.

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