$788M in legal fees cleared for border case
The US$18 million the Government received from ExxonMobil as a signing bonus is beginning to trickle into the Consolidated Fund.
It was revealed today that the Government estimates to spend $788 million to pay lawyers associated with the Guyana/Venezuela border case this year and that amount has been deposited into the Consolidated Fund from the special bank account the signing bonus was placed in.
In the Parliamentary Committee of Supply Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge faced a round of questions on the issue.
He went to the National Assembly seeking the $788 million to meet the estimated cost this year for legal fees for presenting Guyana’s case at the International Court of Justice, the ICJ.
The case was referred to the ICJ by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez earlier this year.
In an embarrassing scandal, it took revelations in the press for the Government to finally admit it received a signing bonus from Exxon Mobil, and that the amount was $18 million.
It was the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself who then said US$15 million will go to paying legal fees for the border case.
The Opposition PPP had agitated that the money did not belong in a special bank account but in the Consolidated Fund.
It took a question from the PPP’s Gail Teixeira that the money is finally trickling into the Consolidated Fund.
“The Ministry requests permission to expend the funds under this arrangement…and the Ministry of Finance, as part of their normal arrangements, will transfer those funds from the accounts where they stand now…to the Consolidated Fund so the payment can be made,” Minister Greenidge stated.
The Minister indicated that the government has no plans on releasing the rest of the signing bonus into the Consolidated Fund, but would do so as the need arises.
“The exercise takes place across a number of financial years, so we don’t plan to transfer all into one year in order to make a payment.
“We have to transfer it in the year for which the expenditure applies,” Greenidge stated.
There were other questions for the Minister, including who make up the team of lawyers.
The Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo indicated that while the PPP had questions it was in no way against the government fighting the case.
“Nothing that we say here must be interpreted as not supportive of our case…Guyana’s case at the ICJ and full solidarity with the government of Guyana in pursuing that case,” Jagdeo stated.