Chris Ram says he’s been told there was a US$20m sign­ing bonus with Exxon

-no an­swer from gov’t

Stabroek News - - FRONT PAGE -

While the gov­ern­ment has re­mained silent on the mat­ter, colum­nist Christo­pher Ram says he has been told that there was a US$20M sig­na­ture bonus paid by ExxonMo­bil as part of the new con­tract agree­ment signed when the APNU+AFC gov­ern­ment took of­fice.

He says this may be one of the rea­sons why the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to hold out on mak­ing the con­tract avail­able.

“The Gov­ern­ment of Guyana used the ex­cuse of a new li­cence to ex­tract a sig­na­ture bonus, a pay­ment made by a con­trac­tor on the sign­ing of an Agree­ment to take up any given num­ber of blocks. The fig­ure I have been told is twenty mil­lion United States Dol­lars,” Ram said in his Stabroek News col­umn ‘The Road to First Oil’ last Fri­day.

He main­tains that there was “ab­so­lutely no rea­son“for a new Petroleum Agree­ment with ExxonMo­bil sub­sidiary, Esso Ex­plo­ration and Pro­duc­tion Lim­ited and its joint ven­ture part­ners since the agree­ment signed un­der the late Pres­i­dent Janet Ja­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, back in 1999, was set to last the en­tire du­ra­tion of the Prospect­ing and Pro­duc­tion Li­cences re­spec­tively.

Ac­cord­ing to Ram, he has been told by sources that the cur­rent gov­ern­ment “used the ex­cuse of a new li­cence to ex­tract a sig­na­ture bonus” and be­lieves that in the in­ter­est of trans­parency gov­ern­ment should come clean on the mat­ter.

Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Raphael Trot­man says he will not be speak­ing on any mat­ters per­tain­ing to con­trac­tual ar­range­ments on oil and gas mat­ters and will let Cab­i­net guide what should be made pub­lic.

“Noth­ing on the con­tract I am dis­cussing. I would like to take this whole is­sue of the pub­li­ca­tion of the con­tract to cab­i­net for guid­ance be­cause it is not a Trot­man is­sue it is a gov­ern­ment po­si­tion and I won’t be able to dis­cuss it,” Trot­man told Stabroek News, ear­lier this month, when asked about whether gov­ern­ment col­lected a sig­na­ture bonus from ExxonMo­bil when a new agree­ment was signed with it. ExxonMo­bil it­self has not said any­thing about this.

“I am not giv­ing any com­ment at all un­til I get guid­ance from cab­i­net on any­thing to do with the con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship,” Trot­man added.

Gov­ern­ment has re­fused to make the con­tract pub­lic and would only say there were mi­nor changes to the old 1999 con­tract agree­ment.

Ear­lier this year, Trot­man had jus­ti­fied the move say­ing that only the “salient points” of the con­tract agree­ment will be made pub­lic for se­cu­rity and other rea­sons.

“In so far as full dis­clo­sure at this point in time, I think gov­ern­ment is of the view that full dis­clo­sure would not be to the best of the na­tional ben­e­fit or na­tional in­ter­est,” Trot­man had told a media break­fast where his min­istry and ExxonMo­bil pro­vided up­dates on the nas­cent oil and gas sec­tor.

“Right now we are pre­pared to share the salient fea­tures of the con­tract, it is a 50/50 pro­duc­tion share agree­ment…that means that Exxon and its part­ners will share 50 per­cent be­tween them­selves and Guyana will (have) 50 per­cent,” he added.

The Min­is­ter said that while he was not speak­ing for gov­ern­ment as to a rea­son why the full dis­clo­sure should not be made as yet, he will weigh in and ad­vise Pres­i­dent David Granger of the myr­iad rea­sons, in­clud­ing the se­cu­rity of the nation.

Trot­man re­minded that the con­tract signed with ExxonMo­bil and gov­ern­ment pre­dates the APNU+AFC gov­ern­ment’s ac­ces­sion to of­fice as it was signed in 1999 with the PPP/C ad­min­is­tra­tion. Di­vulge But point­ing to Guyana’s re­cent boast­ing that it has been ac­cepted as a mem­ber of the Ex­trac­tive In­dus­tries Trans­parency Ini­tia­tive (EITI), Ram flayed gov­ern­ment’s pos­ture say­ing that the case now is even stronger for it to show trans­parency and di­vulge what monies have been re­ceived.

“It would be folly to think that our new found sta­tus of EITI mem­ber­ship will lead to any sig­nif­i­cant en­hance­ment in terms of dis­clo­sure and ac­count­abil­ity – there is sim­ply no sign of any will­ing­ness on the part of this Ad­min­is­tra­tion. In­deed, the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion in the petroleum sec­tor is to mis­lead with­out ac­tu­ally ly­ing. For ex­am­ple, all the while when Mr. Trot­man claimed, wrong­fully, that he was ham­strung in what he could dis­close un­der the PPP/C’s 1997 [non-]amend­ment to sec­tion 4 of the Petroleum Ex­plo­ration and Pro­duc­tion Act, he had in fact signed a com­pletely new Agree­ment in which he was free to make what­ever pro­vi­sions he con­sid­ered nec­es­sary in the na­tional in­ter­est to be in­serted in his 2016 Agree­ment. From all in­di­ca­tions he did noth­ing,” Ram stated.

The lawyer and char­tered ac­coun­tant said that he hopes that EITI would take note and called on the lo­cal Trans­parency In­sti­tute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI) to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity in en­sur­ing that there is adequate dis­clo­sure.

In the mean­time, Ram con­tin­ues to call on gov­ern­ment to ur­gently make pub­lic if it col­lected any monies and how it was used.

“Was Guyana paid a sign­ing bonus on sign­ing of the se­cret Trot­man Agree­ment, and if so how, when and how is that money ac­counted for? If this in­for­ma­tion is ac­cu­rate, the ques­tion is to whom was the pay­ment made? “

And even as he com­mended the gov­ern­ment for early bud­gets, he be­lieves that it should not be done with the pos­si­bil­ity of trans­ac­tions not be­ing properly and fully ac­counted for or be­ing dis­counted be­cause of the in­com­plete fis­cal year.

Value-added caram­bola:

Ster­ling Prod­ucts Lim­ited has tapped into the health ben­e­fits of Caram­bola or as it’s com­monly known - five fin­ger, by un­veil­ing a pre­served prod­uct at the Un­capped agro-pro­cess­ing expo which ended yes­ter­day at the Sophia Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre. Ac­cord­ing to Mario Gohil, a prod­uct de­vel­op­ment an­a­lyst at Ster­ling, the fruit has cancer-fight­ing prop­er­ties along with vi­ta­mins and other min­er­als. The prod­uct can be eaten as a snack or as a part of fruit mix for a cake. Ster­ling hopes to have the prod­uct in su­per­mar­kets across the coun­try, once they re­ceive a favourable re­sponse, in the next three months.

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