I refer to an article in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek entitled `Laws broken in handling of Exxon signing bonus, Chris Ram says’ in which Mr. Ram was quoted as having stated that “… this web of deception has ensnared high level officers of the Ministry of Finance, the Geology and Mines Commission and the Bank of Guyana, including the Chairman of its Audit Committee Mr. Anand Goolsarran”. Since Mr. Ram has found it necessary to include my name, I wish to offer the following clarifications.
- The above-mentioned statement gives the impression that I am currently Chair of the Audit Committee of the Bank. However, I resigned as a non-executive director in August 2017 and therefore I had to relinquish my position on the Audit Committee. Mr. Ram is fully aware of this.
- Media reports indicate that in September 2016, the Ministry of Finance requested the Governor of the Bank of Guyana to open a special foreign currency account into which a signing bonus from ExxonMobil was to be placed. During my tenure as a director of the Bank, this matter was never brought to the attention of the Board, and therefore I could not have been aware of the request to set up such an account.
- The Audit Committee’s role is set out in a Charter that was approved by the Bank’s board. This essentially involves oversight of the work of the Internal Audit Department. In this regard, the Committee reviews the annual programme of the Audit Department and recommends its approval to the Board. The Committee also meets quarterly to discuss audit reports issued during this period, and the discussions are documented in the form of minutes and submitted to the Board. If the matter involving the signing bonus was not brought to the attention of the Committee, there was no way I could have known of the transaction. Suffice it to state, it is not the role of the Committee to delve into the books of account of the Bank to find out about a transaction. However, if a matter is brought to its attention regarding a transaction that appears to be irregular, the Committee is obliged to request officials of the Bank to provide the necessary details. Suffice it to state that no such matter was brought to the attention of the Committee.
- In my capacity as Chair of the Audit Committee, I sought to engage the Auditor General on several occasions since one of the terms of reference contained in the Committee’s Charter is to facilitate an arrangement whereby the Committee acts as a “go-between” management and the External Auditor”. The Auditor General is the External Auditor of the Bank of Guyana. However, for whatever reason, the Auditor General was not receptive to having such an engagement, and this was reported to the Board. As a result, the Committee did not have the benefit of examining the Auditor General’s audit plan to ensure that there is adequate audit coverage of the operations of the Bank, and to provide an input, as is the norm.
Having regard to the above clarifications, it is my sincere hope that readers will not be misled in any way into believing that I was aware of the setting up of a special account at the Bank of Guyana to receive the proceeds of the signing bonus from ExxonMobil and that I was somehow in collusion with the Government to violate Article 2016 of the Constitution and the relevant sections of the FMA Act. My stand on the issue of the signing bonus has been documented in a letter to the Editor and published in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek. Suffice it to state that I would be the last person to condone any violation of the Constitution or our laws relating to the transparency and proper accountability of public resources.
Finally, Editor, it is also my hope that you will consider it necessary to give equal prominence to the above clarifications, as that of the statement issued by Mr. Ram.