Jordan dismisses ‘big jumping up’ over oil bonus, says he was not obligated to reveal info
By Devina Samaroo
Enveloped by a scandal over a signing bonus from ExxonMobil, Finance Minister Winston Jordan this evening said he was not under obligation to reveal the details.
Jordan had previously denied the existence of a signing bonus though a letter leaked to the press revealed his Ministry dictated the setting up of a Foreign Currency Account at the Bank of Guyana over a year ago.
Jordan told the National Assembly that reporters had formulated “ill-directed” questions when the issue arose, debunking assertions that he misled the nation on the signing bonus received from ExxonMobil.
“I don’t know why they say Jordan lied to the press; I lied to anybody?
“There were two questions asked of me on this signing bonus and all of them were ill-directed questions and they gave me the opportunity to say nothing, and so I said nothing,” the Finance Minister stated.
Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman admitted earlier today that the government received a “sum” from the oil giant and that the money would be used to cover Guyana’s legal fees as the country seeks a final, binding settlement to the border controversy with Venezuela.
Trotman was forced to make the announcement after two local newspapers published evidence that the government indeed received a signing bonus from ExxonMobil.
Both Trotman and Jordan were asked by media operatives about the signing bonus but they never gave clear responses.
Jordan explained that a reporter asked him to comment on the claims of political commentator and chartered accountant Christopher Ram that there was a US$20M signing bonus.
“I said, US$20M? I don’t know anything about any US$20M signing bonus but I will go and find out, it must be a figment of somebody’s imagination,” Jordan recalled.
The Minister posited that, to this date, no one ever contacted him to find out if he checked up on the US$20M signing bonus.
“Nobody came back to ask me if I searched. I am not under any obligation to give anybody information that they didn’t ask for,” he stated.
He added: “If you ask me a question, I’ll answer it directly.” He posited that the reporter only framed the question around a signing bonus valuing US$20M.
“There was no signing bonus of US$20M and up to today there is no signing bonus of US$20M so I don’t know what is the big jumping up,” the Finance Minister stated.
Jordan contended that the second question followed a similar pattern.
“Nobody asked me if the government received a signing bonus; they had a specific figure attached to it and my specific response is ‘no’,” the Finance Minister stated.
He also asserted there is no secrecy on the matter, noting that if that was the intention, the document which was leaked to the media would have been better guarded.
“I don’t know why they calling it leaked; if we didn’t want a document to be in the open we would have pressed it under secret and make certain only certain people saw it. But it was opened, the letter that was put in today’s papers was there since 2016 and it remained a government document for all that time.
“So, ask yourself why it suddenly appeared in the papers today.”
Minister of State Joseph Harmon had announced that the government will be making the contract with ExxonMobil public before the end of the year.