The US$18M Exxon Signing Bonus

Dear Editor,
I am appalled at the explanation given by President David Granger with respect to the non-transparency and unaccountability of the US$18 million signing bonus from ExxonMobil to Guyana.
The money was received in the middle of 2016, and was hidden from the people of Guyana until December 2017, when the Government was forced to admit that the funds were received and placed in an account outside of the Consolidated Fund.
President Granger’s most incredible explanation is that there were some national security implications, and that is why the transaction was handled in that manner. That manner involved the clandestine setting up of a bank account with the Bank of Guyana.
Many postulate that the only national security implication is the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute and the legal cost that may follow from legal action. It is for the President to clear the air on this, especially if Guyanese property and person are at risk for some other unknown security reasons.
ExxonMobil has made it pellucid via its Country Manager, Mr Rod Henson, that it has no role whatsoever in the use or where those funds go; no role whatsoever. It therefore stands to reason that there was no contractual or commercial obligation for placing the funds outside the ambit of the regular accountability process.
This accountability process is governed by legislation under Article 216 of the Constitution of Guyana, which deals with establishment of the Consolidated Fund.
After the kerfuffle caused by the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Finance giving opaque answers to questions from the media, the Minister of Finance claimed that the special fund was set up so that it could be held safe for use in the event money is needed to pay for legal costs associated with litigating the border dispute. He further claims that at that time the funds will be placed in the Consolidated Fund and extracted by way of a Supplementary Budget.
I wish to contend that this contemplated procedure by the Minister of Finance violates the letter and spirit of Article 217, which deals with the “Withdrawals from Consolidated Fund or other public funds”.
This is an egregious precedent being set by the Executive arm of Government, especially coming from the President and his ministers. The Constitution and public laws are there to protect the people from the arbitrary actions of the Executive. Articles 116 and 117 are there to do exactly this — to protect the people’s funds from the arbitrary actions of the Government. All actions of the Government must find their source from the Constitution or the laws of the country. Otherwise, they run the risk of being illegal, with serious consequences.
Such consequences are spelt out in Section 85: Liability of official in The Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.
There is a strong case to be made that the President and a number of his ministers and other subordinate officers of the Government knowingly colluded and conspired to falsify the Consolidate Fund and The Audited Public Accounts of Guyana for the Fiscal Year Ended 31 December 2016. Further, they have sabotaged and abused due process and procedures stipulated by law for the regulation of the Consolidated Fund.
As a minimum, a declaration of the Court should be sought, to determine whether the action of the President and responsible Ministers violates the Constitution and laws of Guyana. This is invaluable to stop the slide into further arbitrary action of the Government.
Unfettered misconduct in public office is an abomination of our constitutional and parliamentary democracy.

Tameshwar N.
LLB (Hons.)