President David Granger this morning said that while he does not believe that the placing of the US$18M ExxonMobil signing bonus into a Bank of Guyana (BoG) account instead of the Consolidated Fund violates any laws, if advised by his legal team that the act was unlawful he will correct it.
“I do not accept that it was illegal, I would not do something that was unlawful,” Granger said at a press conference, only the second since taking office in May 2015. It was held at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Analysts have said that the placement of the money at the BoG is a clear violation of Article 216 of the Constitution.
“It has not been proven that there is a crime. It was a course of action that was recommended and we feel that where the money is located at present would insulate it from being misused or stolen. So I don’t believe that there is any illegality or I don’t think there is any corruption or intention to misuse that money. As I said it was put there for a reason and if we are advised by the lawyers that it does not conform to regulations we will comply with the ruling of any court or we will comply with legal advice,” he added.
The government has come in for sharp attacks for withholding information on the signing bonus and Auditor General Deodat Sharma has said that he is investigating the matter.
On Wednesday, Granger said that he is responsible for the US$18M bonus being put into an escrow account at the Bank of Guyana, a decision he believes was necessary at the time so that Guyana could be prepared for a National Security Emergency.
“The transaction was conducted in that manner because there were some national security implications. That was the only reason it was transacted in that manner and I am responsible for national security and it is my decision,” he said in answer at State House to questions posed by Stabroek News on the signing bonus.
“I am the head of government, I am responsible and I am aware of it. It is a legitimate Government of Guyana exercise and I am aware that it is in the Bank of Guyana in escrow. Once it is an escrow account it means that it cannot be used for purposes for which it was not intended. So as far as I am concerned, it is a legitimate Government of Guyana practice and the money has not been dishonestly acquired and will not be used for purposes for which it was not intended,” he also said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge yesterday acknowledged that it was he who advised the president against disclosing the bonus and that he still believes that national security matters pertaining to the Guyana and Venezuela border controversy are at risk with the information out in the public domain.
The President today reiterated the purpose of the monies and assured that it had not yet been used and was safe.
“At present, the money is safe. It belongs to the Guyanese people and it was intended to be used for a specific purpose and that purpose has not been met as yet. We need it there and that is why we put it there, but the money is safe,” he said.
And asked if he would ensure that none of his ministers and other representatives would be compromised given that large sums of revenue have been evidenced to corrupt governments of Third World countries, Granger said that while he could not guarantee this he would try his best and ensure that laws are upheld and culprits face action for their deeds.
“God couldn’t confirm that his people wouldn’t be compromised by adultery. He gave Ten Commandments and people are still compromised. I will do everything under the law to ensure the integrity of the government and the corporations and if any malfeasance I would take every action to ensure that if there are culprits that the culprits would be subjected to the process of law,” he said.
“Yes, I would do everything to ensure the integrity of this industry. It is the first big new industry we have had …and we don’t want to drop the ball we want to ensure our children benefit from this. We have been very cautious and we have, luckily, time to ensure that not only legislation but education that is necessary at the governmental level, that all of this is put in place. We would do everything possible to protect that industry to ensure that our children benefit from it,” he added.