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GUYANA | Court rules: Ram signing bonus case procedurally flawed

  • Written by Wiredja news source - Chronicle
  • Published in Justice
Chartered accountant and political commentator, Christopher Ram Chartered accountant and political commentator, Christopher Ram
GEORGETOWN,  January 16, 2018 - Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire, on Monday ruled as flawed, an application by head of the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI), Troy Thomas for the High Court to order Minister of Finance Winston Jordan to immediately deposit the US$18 million signing bonus into the Consolidated Fund.

When the matter was called on Monday, Justice George-Wiltshire said the application was procedurally flawed and told Thomas’ lawyer, Christopher Ram, to withdraw it or she would strike it out. The state was represented by the Attorney General Chambers.

The application which was filed by Ram was seeking, among other things, an order from the court directing that Jordan account for the bonus in the amended estimates of revenues of the public sector for the years 2017 and 2018, the Stabroek News had reported. He also argued, according to the newspaper, that failure to do so is a violation of the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).

President David Granger had made it clear that his administration acted legitimately by accepting the US$18M signing bonus from U.S. oil giant, ExxonMobil, and placing same into an escrow account at the Bank of Guyana. He told reporters that the money was received to address national security matters. “I am the head of government, I am responsible, I am aware of it and it is a legitimate Government of Guyana exercise and I am aware that it is Bank of Guyana in Escrow; once it is an Escrow account, it means that it cannot be used for purposes for which it is not intended,” he said in response to questions on the issue.

The President maintained that there was nothing wrong or illegal done, stressing that “It is a legitimate Government of Guyana practice and the money has not been dishonestly acquired and has not been used for purposes for which it is not intended.” He explained that the money was received at a time he believes that was necessary, given “some national security implications.” “It is a legitimate exercise, it is to be used for certain matters which we perceive to be of national security interest and [at] that point in time it was the thing to do, so that we can have access in the event of a national security emergency,” he said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, had also told the National Assembly that it was a “very real risk” of the US$18M signing bonus being ventilated in the public to Venezuela’s advantage in the border controversy. This is even as the country anxiously awaits the United Nations Secretary General’s commitment to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

He said if the opposing party, in this case Venezuela, is made aware of subjects such as how much money is devoted to the process and the battery of lawyers recruited, that country can structure it’s strategy “to make life difficult” for Guyana. “It is a very real risk,” he told reporters, noting that “it does involve problems”.

Greenidge said the Government expected that the matter’s sensitivity would have been kept on the back burner but according to him, the main “parameters” of Guyana’s case has been spelt out to the public. He said people are worried, adding that an Opposition Member of Parliament suggested to him Thursday that another US$2M is hidden somewhere, as he explained the laxity in which the matter is being treated. Greenidge said Guyana is in the process of trying to attract businesses to these shores, but he decried the manner in which companies such as the multi-national entities are being treated by sections of the media.

  • Countries: Guyana

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