first_imgFollowing what some are calling the unravelling of a web of deception regarding the Government’s secrecy in collecting millions from oil giant ExxonMobil, calls have risen for an inquiry to be held into all deals negotiated by the Natural Resources Ministry, and for criminal charges to be instituted against ministers at the centre of the controversy.The latest individual to make this call is Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram, the man who first revealed to the nation that Government had collected a US$20-million-dollar signing bonus from the oil company.Government’s receipt of this bonus was initially denied by Finance Minister Winston Jordan; Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; and Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, who had all pleaded ignorance of this bonus when asked by the media.On Saturday, Ram lashed out at the Government, saying that, in an ironic twist, “the dam of eighteen months of denial and obfuscation concerning the payment of a signing bonus by ExxonMobil to the Government broke apart one day before the UN declared International Anti-Corruption Day”.Ram said, “The forced admission by the Government is a shocking revelation of a conspiracy to deceive the people of Guyana about billions of dollars involving a galaxy of ministers, including four of five of Granger’s famous ‘Quintet plus one’, and involving two key ministries and their ministers.”Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, Ram noted, there are immediate and longer-term implications of this saga from which Guyana may forever suffer. One of these implications, he pointed out, is that high-level officials of the Finance Ministry, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, and the Bank of Guyana — inclusive of the Audit Committee — have been ensnared in this conspiracy.Ram added it means that Article 216 of the Constitution of Guyana has been knowingly violated; “that critical information contained in the Estimates of Expenditure now being considered by the National Assembly is inaccurate, incorrect and meaningless; that the 2016 financial statements of the Government and of the Consolidated Fund are for 2016 similarly deficient.”Since the transaction occurred in the fiscal year of the Audit Office of Guyana’s last report, Ram noted, the AG’s report on the Consolidated Fund is inapplicable. He said that, as such, the auditing standards applied by the Office require Auditor General Deodat Sharma to withdraw his report.“The financial statements and the auditor’s report of the Bank of Guyana for the year 2016 face the same jeopardy; and this web of deception has ensnared high level officers of the Ministry of Finance, the Geology and Mines Commission, and the Bank of Guyana, including the Chairman of its Audit Committee, Mr Anand Goolsarran,” Ram declared.He pointedly stated that, when in Opposition, this Government — and very specifically the AFC, of which Raphael Trotman is now leader — had repeatedly claimed that (then Finance Minister) Dr Ashni Singh should be taken before the courts on a criminal charge under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.“It is as clear as day to me that offences (were) committed under Section 85 of that Act by more than one person. This is now a criminal matter, and the Guyana Police Force should be called in,” Ram said on Saturday.Article 216 of the Constitution of Guyana is very clear on how public monies should be treated. According to the section, “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 and from one Consolidated Fund.”Section 85 of Guyana’s Fiscal Management and Accountability Act says that public officials who falsify accounts, statements or records under the Act, or those guilty of conspiring to defraud the state, are committing an indictable offence. The punishment for this offence, on summary conviction, is a fine of $2 million and a three-year jail sentence.UntrustworthyRam noted that after such a blow to the coalition administration’s credibility, President David Granger must take decisive action to ensure the public can regain trust in his Government.According to Ram, this includes the president apologising for his ministers’ “diabolical” act, remedying the violations of the law, and the calling in the Police.But where does this leave the future of transparency and accountability of Guyana’s developing oil sector? According to Ram, it should be clear that such a large source of the national revenues of Guyana should not be left in the control of ministers.“The petroleum resources of Guyana do not belong to a cabal ensconced in the Administration, but to all Guyanese, present and future. Each such Guyanese expects and deserves that its government – whether APNU, PNC or PPP – owes to them honesty, decency and integrity demonstrated in accurate accounting, proper accountability, and good governance, not only on World Anti-Corruption Day, but each and every day of the year”, Ram declared.After months of denial, the Natural Resources Minister on Friday told the National Assembly that Government did receive a large sum of money from oil giant ExxonMobil following the signing of the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA). Trotman informed that the money is being used to defend Guyana’s territorial integrity in the border controversy with Venezuela.The Government has been consistently denying receiving the money, but a document from Finance Secretary Hector Butts was leaked to <> and it stated there was a request that the Bank of Guyana’s Governor set up a special account to deposit the money.last_img read more