Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman today confirmed that government has in fact received ‘advanced payments’ from US Oil Giant Exxon Mobil and its exploration partners -monies he said, have since been set aside to protect Guyana’s territorial integrity.
The Natural Resources Minister was at the time addressing Guyana’s 65-Member Legislative Assembly during its final day of debates over the National Budget Estimates for 2018.
“I am not ashamed, in fact, relieved that the facts are coming out…Yes there is a sum and yes it is reserved to safeguard this country,” Mr. Trotman told the House, adding, “all we are doing is what has been done in the past, preserving the good State of Guyana.”
While not disclosing the quantum of the signing bonus, he told the House that his administration was merely acting on the advice which had been given to the previous administration.
He told the Members of Parliament, “yes, we did what we did, preserve the State…let us be blamed for what is right.”
Defending the decision to accept the payments from the US oil giant, Mr. Trotman said, “we seek only to defend our country,” while pointing out the deficiencies of the Guyana Military – namely absence of warplanes among other “heavy military firepower.”
According to the Natural Resources Minister, what Guyana possesses is its “legal prowess and diplomatic ability.”
He said Government did in fact contract two of the largest legal firms in the world – one out of the Kingdom of Norway experienced in the extractive industry and another from the United States of America.
“In matters of State certain things have to be done,” Mr. Trotman stressed.
He drew reference to the renegotiated 1999 contract with ExxonMobil and pointed out that in addition to the adjustments that resulted in increased royalties to be paid by the company, the annual license fee has also been increased from US$250,000 to US$1M.
Mr. Trotman noted too that under the revised contract ExxonMobil has agreed to make an annual commitment of US$300,000 as part of its corporate social responsibility programme.
He said too that it was ExxonMobil payments which had allowed for the Guyana Government to provide assistance to neighbouring CARICOM countries which had been devastated by hurricanes recently.
Mr. Trotman’s remarks come in wake of a report appearing in a local news outlet on Friday 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.
Issues of contract disclosure and the government receiving a signing bonus have been heightened in recent weeks, with the call for the release of the Production Sharing Agreement with ExxonMobil taking center-stage in the last few months.
The government up until now did not clearly respond to questions about it receiving a signing bonus and what it was intended to be used for.
The country’s Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, has since told the media that the PSA will be made public sometime this month; a promise Mr. Trotman reiterated in Parliament on Friday.