Opposition Leader calls for resignations amid revelations “advance payment” received from ExxonMobil

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Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking in the National Assembly on Friday, December 8, 2017.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is calling on Guyana’s Ministers of Finance and Natural Resources to immediately resign from government over the revelation that a ‘signing bonus’ was in fact paid by ExxonMobil.

The former President now Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the Peoples Progressive Party(PPP), lambasted the stewardship of the oil and gas sector by the current administration since taking office saying, “with this approach oil proceeds will never benefit Guyana, it will benefit a special few.”

Speaking directly to the public revelation of the existence of the signing bonus, coupled with the fact that it was paid over more than a year ago, Mr. Jagdeo told the House, “there must be another motive for trying to hide this money…If he knew and misled this nation he should resign.”

Mr. Jagdeo’s comments follow remarks made by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, on Friday, in which he acknowledged that government received an ‘advanced payment’ from US Oil Giant Exxon Mobil. Mr. Trotman’s remarks come in wake of a report appearing in a local news outlet the same day, in which a letter requesting to open a special bank account to facilitate the “signing bonus” was published. The letter, captioned: “Signing bonus granted by ExxonMobil – request to open account” was signed by several senior Guyana government officials.

The Opposition Leader – who also once served as Minister of Finance – told the House that the contents of the letter requesting the establishment of a special account to deposit the signing bonus also points to even more fundamental problems.

“There are even more fundamental issues here, the letter – the contents of the letter must cause us to worry,” Mr. Jagdeo said.

He drew reference to the letter in which Finance Secretary, Dr. Hector Butts, in requesting the account, asked that it not be treated as part of the Central Bank reserves.

The Opposition Leader was adamant that receipt of a signing bonus from ExxonMobil constitutes revenue for the country and as such must be deposited in the Consolidated Fund (Treasury) or at the very least the accounts of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).

“There has to be a significant breach of our financial laws….A criminal breach of our financial laws, if the money is not there where is it reflected,” he said.

Mr. Jagdeo said the Budget Estimates presented by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, have in fact been understated by some G$4B – reference to the US$20M speculated sum of the signing bonus.

The Opposition Leader drew to the House’s attention, the fact that receipt of the ‘signing bonus’ from ExxonMobil was not reflected in the National Estimates for previous years, nor for 2018.

He suggested that this discovery is in fact grounds for government to withdraw its 2018 Budget since it was inaccurate by billions of dollars.

“This is grounds enough for withdrawal of the entire estimates as illegal and fraudulent…What we have here is a major scandal, the government of Guyana took money, large sums of money in the forms of a signing bonus and did not tell the people,” he stressed.