Exxon signing bonus earning interest

-invested in US treasuries, Canadian bonds

Guyana has earned US$36,169 in interest from the Bank of Guyana (BoG) on the US$18 million signature bonus lodged there in 2016 from the ExxonMobil Production Sharing Agreement (PSA).

Stabroek News understands that the Bank of Guyana has invested the money in a Bank of America (BofA) account in bonds and treasury notes, which mature in July of this year.

“If it stays here, it will sit down doing nothing. It can’t earn interest if it stays here, so it’s in matured US treasury bills, Canada bonds…,” Jordan told a press conference he held yesterday.

The disclosure by Jordan will spark more questions as there have been widespread calls and two lawsuits for the money to be deposited into the Consolidated Fund. This is still to be done despite assurances by the government. Questions will also likely be raised on the authority and process for redirecting the sum from the BoG to BofA and who made the investment decisions and how.

Reading from a statement issued to government by the Bank of Guyana, Jordan said that as at yesterday the account has a balance of US$18,036,169.

In December of last year, following months of silence on if a bonus was paid, the government admitted to it, following a report published by Stabroek News and the Guyana Times confirming a request for the setting up of an account at the BoG for the funds from the signing bonus.

President David Granger would later defend the decision, saying that he was responsible for the US$18 million being put into an account at the BoG.

Government had explained that of the US$18 million, some US$15 million would go towards assisting in legal fees for the Guyana and Venezuela border controversy matter and the other three would go towards capacity building for the oil and gas sector.

Jordan yesterday maintained that the money was never kept secret, saying that no one ever asked him if a signing bonus was paid and therefore he did not give out information not requested.  Critics in the past have ridiculed this response from Jordan.

“The signing bonus account was never hidden; it was there since 2016- it is a public account and not a private account. These are government accounts and every government account that you want to know the balance, you could call the bank or the accountant general because is your money. There is nothing to hide, and nothing to be corrupted,” he said.

“The account has two pieces US$15 million to prosecute the case at the ICJ [International Court of Justice] and US$3 million for training and capacity building. All US$18 million is still in the account, plus the interest of course. During 2018, since we did not know when the UN SG [Secretary General] would make his decision, we did not put any amounts in the budget. So now, what we will have to do is go for supplementary. This supplementary will be based on a Ministry of Foreign Affairs indication as to how much they think we will have to pay the lawyers and others who provide services related to the ICJ matter,” he added.

Explaining the process for how the monies will be withdrawn and spent, Jordan said that when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs notifies that payment to its legal teams are needed or when the capacity building programme has begun, the money will be withdrawn.

“They will tell us, give us a schedule and we will go for the nearest supplementary provision for that sum so parliament is involved. All the debates that go through for supplementary will take place, all the questioning will be asked and when finally it is passed by Parliament and signed into law by the president, we will then approach the Bank of Guyana to transfer the said sum … to the Consolidated Fund,” he explained.

“Because supplementary has been passed, Foreign Affairs will ask for the release and then they will approach Bank of Guyana to purchase the identical sum and then pay the lawyers etc…It is a million times more transparent than what took place during the Suriname-Guyana [maritime] issue where US$10 million or more was paid and not a penny was passed through any account at Bank of Guyana,” he added.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon late last month also informed that the signing bonus received will be deposited into the Consolidated Fund before being used to pay Guyana’s World Court representatives.

His statement followed months of condemnation of the APNU+AFC government for placing the bonus in a BoG account rather than the Consolidated Fund.

Harmon noted that the monies belong to Guyana and that the “bonus, wherever it is would be placed into the Consolidated Fund and it is from that fund that any team whatsoever will be paid whether they are working or worked before or work after.”

He further noted that government will approach the National Assembly for the necessary approval before spending.

Asked when this transfer would occur, Harmon noted that it was for Jordan to decide when it was the right time to do so.

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