Jagdeo prepared to go to court over Exxon bonus

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Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo Friday said he is prepared to go to the court to force the Government to deposit the US$18M signing bonus it received from ExxonMobil into the Consolidated Fund.

“I think we will have to go to court, this is the only way we will force this government to comply,” he told reporters during a press conference at the Public Buildings shortly after the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland rejected a motion they submitted to have a debate on the issue before the passage of the 2018 Estimates.

The motion requested that Finance Minister Winston Jordan amend Financial Estimates of the Revenues and Expenditures of Guyana to incorporate the US$18M.

Jagdeo emphasised that it is imperative that the US$18M be included in the public accounts in order to guarantee legitimate paper trails of how the monies will be spent. He explained that the country cannot afford to end up in another situation like the $1B Durban Park Project where the Office of the Auditor General of Guyana is having a challenging time finding records of financial transactions.

The motion was disallowed by the House Speaker on the ground that did not satisfy the requirement of being of urgent public importance since the issue of the signing bonus was first raised in the House seven days ago.

But Jagdeo believes such an explanation is “utter nonsense”.

“It is utter nonsense! Today the estimates will be put to the House, we have to get this done at any time before the final approval of the estimates, so the Speaker does not find it urgent so he is part of the plot to have the accounts approved in this House that would be illegal and not a representative of the true financial picture of this country,” he explained.

The Opposition Leader further contended that it was only yesterday that the Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge read an official statement to the House on the very issue.

Meanwhile, Jagdeo maintained that the Government should have acted in compliance with the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA) and disclose to the National Assembly its receipt of the money and what it intends to use it for.

“No PPP Member of Parliament (MP) would have opposed US$15M to fight our legal battles with Venezuela,” he stated.

Greenidge told the National Assembly that of the US$18M, US$3M will be used for training while the remaining for legal fees if the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy goes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  He had also explained that this fact was not made public because of national security implications.

In this regard, Jagdeo questioned why the government did not at least come clean on the receipt of the US$3M which would have been dedicated for training purposes. Jagdeo said he strongly believes there was an attempt to swindle the US$18M.

Jordan had already stated that the Government will eventually deposit the money into the Consolidated Fund when it is ready to utilize the funds.

“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.

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