Signing bonus saga continues to unravel
As the oil bonus saga continues to unravel, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge on Thursday revealed that not only did the entire Cabinet know of the signing bonus, but in fact approved the setting up of a special account to deposit the funds.
He told reporters that the “full Cabinet” approved of the setting up of a special foreign currency account to receive the US$18 million signing bonus from US oil giant ExxonMobil.
This comes one day after President David Granger told media operatives that not all Government Ministers had knowledge of the US$18 million signing bonus received from ExxonMobil.
Commenting on the ongoing controversy surrounding the money received, Minister Greenidge told the National Assembly that Cabinet agreed to collect the bonus and in June 2016, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman reported that negotiations were completed.
He added that the full Cabinet then approved the terms negotiated and the arrangements to receive the funds.
Moreover, the Foreign Affairs Minister further told reporters during a subsequent press conference that the entire Cabinet knew of the money.
Greenidge, however, said only those directly involved knew how the monies would be spent. He further revealed that not all of the money would go towards paying an “enlarged” legal team to represent Guyana’s interest once the border controversy is referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by the United Nations Secretary General at the end of this year.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said US$15 million would go towards legal fees and the other US$3 million would go towards urgent training for Guyanese in areas such as petroleum and geology.
Government had opted to keep a lot of the details surrounding its deal with ExxonMobil under wraps; citing among others, security reasons, especially the ongoing border controversy with neighbouring Venezuela.
In fact, now that news of the signing bonus and its intended purpose is out, Minister Greenidge says it poses a risk to Guyana’s strategy to defend its territorial integrity when the matter is taken before the ICJ.
After months of denying that there was any signing bonus, a letter was leaked on Friday last – by this newspaper – revealing that Government had set up a special foreign currency account in September 2016 for the purpose of receiving payment of the US$18 million signing bonus from the oil company.