The Justice Institute Guyana strongly endorses the views expressed in Monday’s editorial ‘ExxonMobil signing bonus’ and joins Transparency International Guyana, Chris Ram, Anand Goolsarran and members of the public in condemning the secret payment of US$18M from ExxonMobil to the government.
The government’s attempt to pass off this payment as a signing bonus is to miss the point. Nowhere in the world is it acceptable for a foreign company to make secret payments to public officials or for public officials to accept secret payments from a foreign company. The law required the government to put the money received from ExxonMobil into the Consolidated Fund and to do it promptly. Putting it anywhere else, even into a government account, is illegal. That Minister Trotman, a lawyer as well as the responsible Minister, did not ensure that the money from ExxonMobil went into the Consolidated Fund, suggests either crass incompetence or dishonesty, either of which makes him thoroughly unfit to continue as a minister. He should now do the decent thing and resign.
The government has attempted to explain its secrecy on the basis that the US$18M will be used to pay legal fees for Guyana territorial defence. That is too daft to contemplate as an excuse. The legal defence of Guyana’s sovereignty should not depend on some underhand arrangement. Guyana’s sovereignty must be protected by the best legal team, hired and paid in a transparent manner with money properly authorised from the Consolidated Fund. The state is not the APNU+AFC administration; the state is the people that APNU+AFC were elected to serve.
I have been unable to extract any meaning from ExxonMobil’s reported justifications for its secrecy. Clearly however, there is no necessity to hide a payment to a government unless there is something illegal or unethical about it. Is this secret payment from ExxonMobil an indication of the way that the government and ExxonMobil intend to handle future oil revenue?
Irrespective of whether the money from ExxonMobil is shown to be a signing bonus, the mere fact of secrecy calls into question the entire negotiation, the government’s good faith and the government’s use of power. This controversial contract, which is still secret, should be cancelled.
The oil should stay right where it is, more than 11,000 feet below sea-level, until the people of Guyana are satisfied that there will be no further mismanagement by government or secretive behaviour from any oil company.
Justice Institute Guyana