As he closed the 2018 budget debate yesterday, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan denied lying about the signing bonus from ExxonMobil, while saying that he hadn’t been asked precise questions.
Jordan took issue with reports surrounding the signing bonus received by the APNU+AFC from US oil company ExxonMobil.
Stabroek News had reported yesterday that government had directed the Governor of the Bank of Guyana Dr Gobind Ganga to open an account for the signing bonus. This was confirmed by Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman yesterday.
Jordan admitted that he was asked about a signing bonus twice but claimed the questions were “ill directed.”
“They saying I lied to the press. I lied to anybody? They gave me the opportunity to say nothing, and so I said nothing,” the Finance Minister stated.
Jordan noted that he was asked to comment on a statement made by commentator Christopher Ram that government received a US$20 million signing bonus.
“I said, US$20 million? I don’t know anything about any US$20 million signing bonus but I will go and find out. It must be a figment of somebody’s imagination,” Jordan recounted, before adding that “Nobody came back to ask me if I searched. I am not under any obligation to give anybody information that they didn’t ask for…is not a court.”
Jordan stressed that he was only required to respond to the question as it was asked. “If you ask me a question, I’ll answer it directly. I went and find out and there was no signing bonus of US$20 million and up to today there is no signing bonus of US$20 million, so I don’t know what is the big jumping up,” he added.
“Nobody asked me if the government received a signing bonus; they had a specific figure attached to it and my specific response is ‘no,’” the Finance Minister reiterated, while Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence cried “Fake news.”
Jordan too stressed that the letter to Ganga should not be referred to as a leak since it was always “open.”
“I don’t know why they calling it leak. If we didn’t want a document to be in the open, we would’ve press it under secret and mek certain only certain people saw it but it was open. The letter which was published in today’s papers was there since 2016 and it remained a government document for all that time so ask yourself why it appear in the paper now,” Jordan said, adding “we don’t care.” (State Minister Joseph Harmon yesterday referred to the release of the letter as a leak.)
This was the first of four reprimands the minister saw fit to deliver during his three-hour presentation.
At one point, Jordan declared that he was not going to “knock Journalists but our journalists need to start doing work and stop reading press releases. Do the background work the information is there. Stop with all these press releases and press conferences. Do your background work.”
The last sentence became a refrain whenever the minister believed an issue he was speaking on was not reported to his satisfaction.