Litigation brought against the Guyana Government by anti-corruption watchdog agency Transparency Initiative Guyana Inc. over the US$18 million signing bonus it received from ExxonMobil hit a snag in the courts on Monday as Chief Justice Roxanne George was unable to hear the matter in Chambers.
OilNOW understands that the requisite court documents were not served on the named respondents -Minister of Finance Winston Jordan and Attorney General Basil Williams.
TIGI’s Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram told OilNOW the legal team will now be moving to have the summons served on the Government’s representatives. The matter was originally scheduled to be heard in Chambers on Monday January 15, when the Chief Justice was expected to fix a date for hearing. TIGI on January 5, formally moved to the courts filing legal action against the Finance Minister and the Attorney General over the deposit of an US$18 million signing bonus received from ExxonMobil into a special purpose account at the Bank of Guyana.
- Finance Minister says no rules broken with special account for signing bonus
- US$18M ‘signing bonus’ will eventually be placed in Consolidated Fund – Finance Minister
TIGI President Dr. Troy Thomas is calling on the Courts to compel Finance Minister Winston Jordan to immediately deposit the US$18 Million signing bonus into the Consolidated account. The Finance Minister is also being called on to show cause as to why such an order should not be made absolute on the grounds that failure to comply would be a breach of the Guyana Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA). Dr. Thomas in an affidavit seen by OilNOW contends that the deposit into the Bank of Guyana (BoG) account is “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, irrational, unlawful, illegal, erroneous, done in bad faith, improper, unfair, and an improvident expression of discretion”. He contends, too, that at no point in time did the Cabinet of Guyana or the Minister of Finance disclose the existence of the signing bonus and in fact concealed its existence. This, Dr. Thomas said, was an act of intentionally and willfully deceiving and misleading the citizens of Guyana. The head of the transparency watchdog body is hoping to have the Court make the declaration that the deposit of US$18 million received by Oil major ExxonMobil into an account other than that of this Consolidated Fund and to not disclose its existence is unlawful and unconstitutional, and in breach of Article 216 of the Constitution of Guyana and the FMAA Cap. 73:02.
Article 216 of the Constitution states: “all revenues or other moneys raised or received by Guyana (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under an act of Parliament, into some other fund established for any specific purpose or that may, by or under such an act be retained by the authority that received them for the purpose of defraying the expenses of that authority) shall be paid into the consolidated fund.
Section 38 of the FMAA requires that: (1) all public moneys raised shall be credited fully and promptly into the Consolidated Fund, except- (a) moneys credited to an extra budgetary fund as stipulated in the enabling legislation establishing that fund; (b) moneys credited to a deposit fund; and (c) as stipulated in the constitution.
In the application filed by Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram, TIGI is also looking to have the Courts declare that “the decision to make the deposit in an account other than the Consolidated Fund and not disclose its existence is unlawful, unconstitutional and a nullity”.
Additionally, TIGI is looking to have the Courts declare as unlawful the decision by the Finance Minister to exclude receipt of the signing bonus from ExxonMobil in the National Estimates (Annual Budget).
The Guyana government had said its decision to not disclose receipt of the US$18M ‘signing bonus’ was due to considerations over a potential imminent court matter with Venezuela.
Referencing the receipt of the US$18M payment from ExxonMobil, Mr. Jordan had said, “The US$18M is in a special account at Bank of Guyana. It is there because it is designed for a special purpose. Whenever that special purpose is activated the monies will go into the Consolidated Fund…We will come to the Parliament here and get a supplementary budget to pay whoever we have to pay…”