Guyana says ExxonMobil signature bonus still intact, earning interest

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Winston Jordan, Guyana’s Minister of Finance

Guyana’s Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan says none of the US$18M—received as a signing bonus from US oil major ExxonMobil—has been spent, and the sum has in fact earned interest between July 2016 and now since it was placed in a special account at the South American nation’s Central Bank.

Mr. Jordan on Friday briefed reporters on the state of the account amidst growing speculations that the money is in fact being used outside of the purview of the Legislative Assembly—parallel to the national coffers.

According to Jordan, the account now holds US$18,036, 169. In a not so veiled snipe at media houses publishing what he calls misinformation and fake news, Minister Jordan told reporters anyone interested in finding out the status of the account can simply call the Bank of Guyana, and failing that—the Accountant General or the Minister himself.

According to Mr. Jordan, “fake news is making the press and making hot press at that.”

He was adamant in his reiterations, “the signing bonus was never hidden…it was there since 2016. It’s a public account.”

Mr. Jordan insisted, “These are government accounts and every government account that you want to know the balance of you can call the Bank, or you can call the Accountant General because it is your money, it is your money.”

The Finance Minister was at the time speaking at a press conference held at his Main Street, Georgetown office, and said, “if you call and ask ‘what is the balance on the signature bonus account?’ and they said I can’t tell you, call the Minister.”

He insists, when it comes to the signing bonus, “…there is nothing to hide, nothing to be corrupt.”

The Guyanese Finance Minister told reporters monies to be expended from the signing bonus will have to be passed through the National Assembly using Supplementary Financial Papers.

These, he said, would be based on the amounts required to pay the associated expenditure with regards the Guyana\Venezuela Border controversy—now before the International Court of Justice.

It was explained that monies for the litigation could not be placed in the 2018 Budget since the decision to refer the matter to the ICJ by the United Nations Secretary General did not obtain until January 2018.

“So now, what we will have to do is go for Supplementary…this Supplementary will be based on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indication as to how much they think they will have to pay the lawyers, and others—such as researchers and others,” he said.

The Guyanese Finance Minister maintains it is only when the Minister of Foreign Affairs makes that request, that a request will be made of the National Assembly after which the amount approved will be transferred to the consolidated fund first.

The US$18M was earmarked by the Guyanese authorities for legal fees (US$15M) and capacity building and training (US$3M), none of which has been touched to date, according to Mr. Jordan.