National Coordinator of the Guyana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GY-EITI) Dr. Rudy Jadoopat says that while the body will not be making any statement on the controversial signing bonus that the government received from ExxonMobil, it is encouraging civil society to continue to watchdog the sector.
“I think everything is in the public domain already. We are not a public advocate like TIGI [Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc.] but we provide verifiable accurate information to the public,” Jadoopat told this newspaper last week, while pointing out that since the contract and other information have been made privy to the public, there is no need for a statement.
“We cannot pronounce on whether it is right or wrong because we are not a legal entity but we are glad that citizens are taking up the matter,” he added, while stating that he hopes the trend continues and citizens continue to pay the same amount of attention and focus to not only the incoming oil and gas industry but also the other industries in the extractive sector.
Jadoopat had said in December that a decision would be taken this month on making a public statement in relation to the controversial US$18 million signing bonus.
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman admitted to the National Assembly that government received the signing bonus, which he had for months refused to confirm. His admission came after the publication of news stories on a letter, dated September 20th, 2016, from Finance Secretary Dr Hector Butts to the Bank of Guyana Governor Dr Gobind Ganga seeking the setting up of an account for the funds from the signing bonus
Accountant and attorney Christopher Ram has said that laws have been broken in the handling of the signing bonus. He has argued that by law the bonus should have been deposited into the consolidated fund, which is yet to be done.
In terms of the signing bonus being placed in a special account at the Bank of Guyana, Jadoopat said that it is up to the court to decide whether it was correct and legal and to make a decision. “We are not qualified enough to make that pronouncement but we hope what decision the court will make will be constitutional and the citizens will be satisfied because they own the natural resources and they ought to know how the payments are being made and used. The good thing is that it went into a special account and not a personal account,” Jadoopat said. He added that the issue of signing bonuses is of concern to the GY-EITI as it is related to revenue collection, which is dealt with in Requirement Four of the EITI Standard. An understanding of company payments and government revenues, he said, can inform public debate about governance of the extractive industry. As a result, the EITI requirements related to revenue collection include: comprehensive disclosure of taxes and revenues, sale of state’s share of production or other revenues collected; infrastructure provisions and barter arrangements; transportation revenues; state-owned enterprise transactions; subnational payments; level of disaggregation; data timelines; and data quality.
“GY-EITI is pleased that the Government of Guyana and ExxonMobil have publicly disclosed the contract which provides the terms attached to the exploitation and exploration of oil and gas within the territory of Guyana. We take this opportunity to call on the Government of Guyana and all companies operating within the extractive industry in Guyana to follow suit and also publicly disclose all contracts. We encourage the Government of Guyana to make it a policy to publicly disclose contracts and licenses governing exploration and exploitation of our natural resources,” Jadoopat added.