President defends secrecy of ExxonMobil’s signing bonus
By Bibi Khatoon
President David Granger on Wednesday said that the decision to place a US$18M signing bonus received from ExxonMobil into a separate bank account instead of into the Consolidated fund “was the thing to do…at that point in time,” as he took full responsibility for the transaction.
He told reporters on the sidelines of an event hosted at State House this morning that not “all” Ministers had knowledge of the transaction.
“I am the Head of Government, I am responsible and I am aware of it and it is a legitimate Government of Guyana exercise and I am aware that it is in the Bank of Guyana is Escrow which means it cannot be used for the purpose it’s not intended,” Mr Granger said.
The monies were received from the oil major in September 2016 but was only disclosed on December 08, 2017 after a letter from the Ministry of Finance, directing the Governor of the Bank of Guyana to open an account for the sum was leaked to the media. The exact sum was subsequently confirmed by Exxon’s Country Manager, Rod Henson on December 10, 2017.
The Head of State noted that the money will be used for national security-related matters and “at that point in time, it was the thing to do so that we can have access in the event of a national security emergency.”
Prior to the revelation of signing bonus, questions were asked to Ministers of Finance and Natural Resources, however, they both denied or failed to directly address the issue.
In this regard, Mr Granger said: “I am not sure that all of the Ministers were aware of the transaction.”
When further questioned about the Finance Minister’s knowledge of the signing bonus, the President said: “I know that the transaction was conducted through the …Finance Secretary, but as I pointed it out, it is on Government paper…”
It must be noted that the US$18M is also not accounted for in the 2018 National Budget which was presented late last month.
The Government was also accused of being deliberately deceptive by the local transparency watchdog – Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc.
However, Mr Granger, this morning said: “It is not a question of secrecy, evidence of non-disclosure does not mean there is evidence of any intention of deception.”
He further stated, “there’s no intention to deceive but there was no need to make it public, it’s a governmental decision, I make governmental decisions all the time.”
Further defending the legitimacy of the transaction, the president said it was “conducted on government letterhead paper between two state agencies—the Bank of Guyana and the Ministry of Finance.”
As reported in today’s edition of the Stabroek News, Auditor General, Deodat Sharma outlined that according to the Constitution, all monies collected should be stated and if it was not, then it means that the assets and liabilities statement of the Government is understated or the cash book is understated by that amount.
The Head of State failed to answer questions about a breach of the Constitution of Guyana as he continued to defend the legitimacy of the transaction and indicated to media operatives to move on from the topic.
It was reported by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman that Government intends to use the US$18M to fund its juridical settlement of the ongoing controversy with neighbouring Venezuela if the matter moves to the International Court of Justice in the new year.