Why go to such lengths to lie about the signing bonus?

Dear Editor,

Just when one would have thought that the APNU+AFC coalition could not have sunk lower in the eyes of the Guyanese people, they defy expectations and do just that.

The latest scandal involving their blatant dishonesty about the receipt of a signing bonus from the oil giant ExxonMobil, and their obvious intention to siphon off the amount received, must surely go down as an all-time low, judging even by their already very low standards.

The Minister of Finance is arrogantly quoted on Saturday as saying that he was not obligated to reveal the details of the receipt and that when he was previously asked about this matter, the questions asked gave him an opportunity to say nothing so he said nothing. Well, this is a most alarming declaration coming from the custodian of the public purse, and if this is his understanding of his accountability and answerability to the people of Guyana, then the people of Guyana will wait a very long time to enjoy any benefit from any oil money when it starts to flow.

Exactly the same can be said about the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of State, both of whom flippantly dismissed their previous public misrepresentations on this matter.

The questions are simple and have to be asked. Why say nothing about it? Why go to all these lengths to lie about this matter? What is there to hide? Why go to all these lengths and run the risk of political embarrassment and scandal to conceal that this amount was received? Why was the amount not deposited into the Consolidated Fund or into a GGMC account as required by law? Where is this amount reflected in the national budget estimates? Why did so many members of the Cabinet conspire to conceal the facts of this matter?

The answer is probably found in the diktat given to the central bank that the amount be kept in a secret bank account outside the bank’s reserves. Surely, if the intent was to comply with the law, the receipt of this amount would have been treated like any other receipt of any other government revenue and placed in the Consolidated Fund.

Those questions need answers now. And somebody has to be held accountable for the lies told to the people of Guyana. Otherwise, Guyana can forget about any oil money any time soon. It will all end up in a secret bank account on which the Cabinet feels that they need not say anything, as they did on this occasion, because they clearly believe Guyana is their private property to do as they please.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar

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