Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge has explained to the National Assembly that the transfer of the ExxonMobil funds to a Government account at the Bank of Guyana is covered by the law and there was nothing illegal about it.
In a statement to the National Assembly yesterday, the Foreign Minister defended Government’s decision to place the signing bonus in a special escrow account at the Bank of Guyana, for use in the likely International Court case to settle the border controversy with Venezuela.
The Foreign Minister said he strongly believes that issues surrounding the money should have stayed quiet, as he pointed out that there could now be national security implications.
“Members are free to have a look at the provisions of Sec. 37(2) of the Financial Management & Accountability Act which governs the handling of public funds which is the topic at issue. That article provides for public monies to be held in Extra-Budgetary Funds, Deposit Funds, etc. until they are credited to the Consolidated Fund. So if the manner of raising of the funds was not illegal and their placement in a Deposit Fund at the BOG was not illegal either, what then is the song and dance about? Perhaps it was based on the erroneous belief peddled by one commentator that this was an agreement negotiated overseas”, Greenidge said.
The Government has come under some criticism from the Opposition and at least one political commentator about the decision to deposit the money in the special account instead of the Consolidated Fund.
The Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, has also explained that the money will be credited to the Consolidated Fund when the special need arises. President Granger made the same point earlier this week.
Foreign Minister Greenidge told the Assembly that “given the purpose for which the funds were to be used, and its implications for national security neither the President nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saw any merit in advertising the matter. In fact, so great was the concern that only those who needed to know were informed as to the purpose of the deposit. Consequently, only those Members of the Cabinet directly involved and the relevant technicians were informed. The fact that those who were investigating this matter could have stumbled on the reason for the holding of the funds and still feel it necessary to make it both public and use it for sensational headlines is testimony to the sense of responsibility in certain sections of our media”.
He said that the border issue with Venezuela remains a major issue and Guyana needed to keep its hand to itself with what it will be doing in relation to any aspect of the court case and what money it has in place to ensure it fights a successful case at the international court.