Signing bonus to be transferred to Consolidated Fund

- Gov’t criticises Auditor General


By Devina Samaroo

The US$18M signing bonus will eventually be transferred to the Consolidated Fund, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan has assured even as he and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman expressed disapproval of the Auditor General’s (AG’s) intention to investigate the issue.

“The money is temporarily in an account at the Bank of Guyana and by the way, it’s earning interest. When the activity has been activated, that is, if we are going to the Court, the monies will be transferred to the Consolidated Fund,” Jordan said when asked by the News Room today on the sidelines of an event at the Marriott Hotel.

It was announced earlier this week in the National Assembly by Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman that the money will be used for legal fees as Guyana seeks a final, binding settlement to the border controversy with Venezuela. Guyana is pushing for the issue to be resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Meanwhile, Minister Jordan explained that the foreign currency will be sold to the Bank of Guyana which will then credit the Consolidated Fund with the Guyana Dollar equivalent.

“I will go to the Parliament to seek a supplementary budget for the exact sum to pay the lawyers and so forth,” the Finance Minister said, asserting that the process is transparent.

The US$18M has been sitting in a special account at the Bank of Guyana since last year – unknowingly to the public and considered to be in violation of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA).

Jordan, during the interview with the News Room, dismissed those concerns, contending that if the government’s decision violates the FMA, then almost all the accounts at the Central Bank have a similar violation.

“Let’s go to the Lotto Fund, for example. We get 24% from the proceeds of Lotto, isn’t that supposed to go exactly into the Consolidated Fund? But instead, it goes to the Lotto Fund and expenses are expended out of the Lotto Fund and at the end of the year, you transfer whatever is the balance to the Consolidated Fund,” he explained.

He contended that persons who do not understand the accounting and the rules are making statements that, “I don’t find gels with what has been the practice.”

When asked what purpose the FMA serves if the violations are normalised, the Finance Minister indicated that there are loopholes.

“I think the Act means well but I believe in practice, there are ways of implementing the Act without violating the Act,” he stated.


Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman

When asked to comment on the probe being launched by the Audit Office of Guyana, Minister Jordan said he is surprised by Auditor General Deodat Sharma’s “sudden enthusiasm since this government has come to power.”

Similarly, Trotman told media operatives that while the Auditor General has a duty to investigate anything he wishes, he is astonished that Sharma chose the issue of the signing bonus.

“I am just surprised that this Auditor General has found himself and there are so many things that have been left over from the past administration that he seemed to not have awakened to as yet. With the resources that the Auditor General has, I am surprised he chose this and not go back and give the nation some answers on some misspent funds over the years,” the Natural Resources Minister stated.

The Stabroek News had reported that the Auditor General has started investigating the failure of the government to transfer the signing bonus paid by ExxonMobil last year to the Consolidated Fund, in keeping with the FMA.

Section 38 (1) of the FMA Act states, “All public moneys raised or received by the Government shall be credited fully and promptly to the Consolidated Fund, except –

(a) moneys credited to an Extra-budgetary Fund as stipulated in the enabling legislation establishing that fund;

(b) moneys credited to a Deposit Fund; and

(c) as stipulated in the Constitution.”

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