Guyana opposition plans to press gov’t on US$20M signing bonus claim

Guyana’s Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, on Wednesday vowed that his Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will be pressing the Guyana Government to disclose whether a US$20M signing bonus was received from US oil major ExxonMobil.

Mr. Jagdeo made the declaration during his weekly media engagement held at his Church Street, Georgetown, office. He told reporters that through his party’s investigations he has been able “to reasonably confirm the government has received the sum of money approximating US$20M. They received this money it seems almost a year ago.”

The Leader of the Opposition said he has decided to look into and weigh-in on the matter given the prominence it has been given in the public domain.

He told reporters the matter will be raised with ExxonMobil officials in Guyana when he meets with them in coming weeks.

The issue of a signing bonus has been gaining attention as well the disclosure of the agreement between Guyana and ExxonMobil. Government has to date made public, information related to the royalty and profit share arrangement that applies once oil production begins.

The oil major has said it is prepared to follow the law on disclosures and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, recently told OilNOW discussions are ongoing at the level of Cabinet regarding disclosing more information about the contract.

Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-Law, Christopher Ram, recently said he had been told that a US$20M ‘signature bonus’ had been paid by ExxonMobil to the administration as part of a new Production-Sharing Agreement inked in 2016.

“The Government of Guyana used the excuse of a new licence to extract a signature bonus; a payment made by a contractor on the signing of an agreement to take up any given number of blocks. The figure I have been told is twenty million United States Dollars,” Mr. Ram lamented at the time.

Mr. Jagdeo said his party will be putting the matter on the front burner. “I think that most of us felt that no government would receive US$20M as a signing bonus and then refuse to make it available, or the knowledge about it,” he said.

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The initial agreement with ExxonMobil was signed in 1999, approximately two months before Mr. Jagdeo became President. During his tenure, the details of the agreement were not made available to the public for scrutiny.

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Further commenting on the signing bonus claim, Mr. Jagdeo said, “We are going to be pressing more on this money,” with a view to finding out where it went and with whose knowledge.