Auditor General to question Jordan, ExxonMobil on signing bonus
By Devina Samaroo
As the probe gets underway into the controversial US$18M signing bonus, the Auditor General of Guyana, Deodat Sharma will be writing the Minister of Finance and executives of ExxonMobil seeking clarity on why the money was not deposited into the consolidated fund as is required by the Constitution of Guyana and if more monies were received by the Government from the oil giant.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan had explained that the US$18M signing bonus received from ExxonMobil will not be deposited into the consolidated fund anytime soon because if it is transferred then it will only reduce the deficit.
“If you put money there, it can’t be earmarked. It is used for any and all purposes. The Consolidated Fund is in deficit. If you put that money in there all it does is reduces the deficit,” the Finance Minister told reporters recently.
During an exclusive interview with the News Room Friday, however, the Auditor General disregarded the explanation advanced and said he will formally write the Minister to find out why he does not want to deposit the money.
“I don’t think that’s the right answer because how are you funding other ministries? The deficit will still increase. The Constitution says that the money should be paid into the Consolidated Fund according to Section 216 and that’s what the government should be doing,” Mr Sharma told News Room.
Mr Sharma said he has confirmed that the money is in a special account at the Bank of Guyana but noted that the Minister needs to put arrangements in place to allow the funds to be kept there legally.
“We’ve now verified that it’s at the Central Bank and that it’s in a special account…the problem is that according to the Constitution, it says that money collected should be paid into the Consolidated Fund unless you had some special arrangement to create an extra-budgetary fund. The Minister don’t have any arrangement in terms of creating an extra-budgetary fund because he’d have to take that arrangement to parliament and he did not,” Mr Sharma explained.
The Government remains committed to keeping the funds outside of the consolidated fund.
Troy Thomas, the Head of the local transparency watchdog – the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc – has moved to the High Court seeking an order to direct the government to transfer the money to the consolidated fund.
The matter will be heard on January 15, 2018.