Several weeks ago, I asked where is the $30 billion the Government, through SPU/NICIL, took on behalf of GuySuCo. To this day, no one in Government is providing answers to the people. Now I am asking again, where is the $US18 million Exxon bonus money? These enormous sums of money, amounts that exceed the total amount paid to the entire public service as salaries and benefits for an entire year, have become State secrets. People ask these questions not because they are prying into other people’s business, but because it is their right to want to know about their assets. While people are still waiting to hear an answer for the $30 billion GuySuCo loan, they also want answers for the US$18 million Exxon money.
Why is APNU/AFC so secretive about the Exxon US$18 million? Where is the money? How has it been spent, if any has been spent? The stewardship of the $US18 million Exxon money has been illegal from the start and is in total violations of all the relevant laws of Guyana. As the Leader of the Opposition, Bharat Jagdeo, reminded people, the money was not accounted for in the 2017, 2018 and the 2019 Budgets as required by law. Political malfeasance is a horrendous indiscretion by any Government, but the unaccountability and non-transparency with which the US$18 million Exxon money has been handled is totally illegal, breaching all the laws of Guyana. The State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) and Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) have become complicit in the breaches because neither of them sees it fit and proper to be even a little inquisitive.
APNU/AFC kept the Exxon contract a secret for almost two years. They received US$18 million from Exxon and hid it in a secret account at the Bank of Guyana. Later, the Finance Minister claimed the money was in a secret account in a secret foreign bank. As the Opposition and civic society demanded answers and transparency, Raphael Trotman dug in and claimed the contract had to be kept secret because of national security. When the secret bank account with the US$18 million was exposed, Trotman led the denial and even the President denied, even though the truth was staring at every Guyanese citizen. It turned out to be a secret in plain sight. The contract was then released, as APNU/AFC succumbed to the intense political and civic pressure. We have now known the details of the contract for almost two years, we know there was an Exxon payment of US$18 million since 2016. We do not know where the money is and if any has been used.
Trotman now admits that hiding the contract and the payment was wrong. Now that the successful no-confidence motion of Parliament has forced APNU/AFC into caretaker status, Ministers who for almost four years, since May 2015, were too busy to visit and discourse with the people have found time to do so. They are suddenly regretting many things they know were corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, not because of any genuine epiphany, but in a continued effort to fool people. Trotman still insists they were correct because of national security reasons. Yet for almost two years now, since they were forced to release the contract and concede they received the money, he cannot show us what national security was compromised.
More importantly, he still refuses to tell the nation where the US$18 million is. Guyanese people want to know. The Parliament demanded answers. People have gone to court for answers. Mr Jordon, Mr Trotman, Mr Greenidge come clean and account for the $US18 million. President Granger, you have a duty to let the Guyanese people know what happened to the US$18 million Exxon money. The nation does not need admission and regrets, the nation wants a simple, plain answer.
Dr Leslie Ramsammy