An article enshrining the US$18m signing bonus in the 2016 agreement between Guyana and ExxonMobil’s subsidiary was clearly the reason why the government kept the document hidden, according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
A statement today from Jagdeo follows:
The reason for refusing to make the contract with ExxonMobil public over a year and a half after it was signed, in spite of a relentless campaign by the media, many civil society and international organizations and the Parliamentary political opposition, was made apparent now that the contract has emerged today. The now revealed contract exposes the false claims by the government that a clause inserted in the Petroleum Act by the PPP and national security concerns prevented its disclosure.
The primary reason for keeping the agreement secret, despite it being registered at the Deeds Registry which made it a public document, is contained in article 33, which provides for a signing-bonus of US$18 mln .
The signing bonus as revealed by diligent work done by the media, was paid into a secret account at the Bank of Guyana with strict instructions not to transfer it into the Consolidated Fund, in flagrant violation of Article 216 of the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. Several Cabinet members refused to acknowledge the existence of the signing bonus. The Minister of Finance even said was a “figment of the imagination” and that they never received a signing bonus nor did they ask for one although it was already paid into the secret account since September 2016.
Now that their sinister plan to squirrel-way the US $18 mln has been exposed there is no compelling reason to keep the agreement secret any longer.
There are still many unanswered questions that the government needs to come clean on, for example who negotiated the signing bonus and how was the figure of US$18 mln arrived at?
However, over the next few days I will examine the contract in details and offer our perspective on it.