Oil bonus scandal……over stashed US$18MBy Michael YoungeAn important civil society body is expected to take to court this week the Government of Guyana over its decision to stash in a special account US$18 million given by oil giant ExxonMobil as a signing bonus in 2016.Guyana Times understands that the action will be filed as soon as all the paper work is completed and the entity is satisfied that there are no loopholes in its case.The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and at least one other anti-corruption body are expected to join in the action, given their concern over the move by the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government to justify its decision to illegally hold the money outside of the Consolidated Fund.People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Parliamentarian the former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, speaking with the Guyana Times on Sunday, confirmed that his party has decided this is the best course of action, given the stubbornness of the current Administration, and its apparent inability to respect the rule of law as well as the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).Nandlall insists that this money, now sitting in a special account at the Bank of Guyana, was illegally placed there; and he has chided the Government for its double-standards and continued deception.Asked if this is the only recourse, given that his party failed in its bid to table in the National Assembly a motion to adjust the estimates of the 2018 budget, Nandlall responded in the affirmative.Nandlall has taken issue with the formal outline by President David Granger for the transfer of the money from the Bank of Guyana account into the Consolidated Fund. President Granger had said he is willing to respect any ruling of the court or credible legal advice which proves that a criminal or illegal act has occurred by the non-transfer of the funds into the Consolidated Fund.“As I said, it was put there for a reason; and if I am advised by the lawyer that we are in breach of any regulations, we would comply with the ruling of any court or legal advice… We need it there, and that’s why we put it there, but the money is safe,” the President said.Nandlall had expressed concern over the President’s statement, and is reminding him that the Opposition People’s Progressive Party has, from the onset, been pointing out the illegality.“…a number of important stakeholder organisations and financial as well as legal luminaries have already advised him to put the money into the Consolidated Fund, but he still refuses to do so,” Nandlall pointed out, before stating, “There is no alternative but to give the Government a court order”.Asked if he believes that Government would adhere to the order if it is granted, Nandlall remarked. “We will have to wait and see.”The Opposition MP also criticised the advice being given to the President on the matter by both Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.“Having regard to motions which Carl Greenidge tabled in the last Parliament and legislation that he piloted from the Opposition benches, calling on the Government then to deposit all monies — including monies that were in the lottery fund and several other extra -budgetary funds — to place them in the Consolidated Fund, his current position demonstrates a high level of hypocrisy and duplicity”, Nandlall stated.Asked if the Attorney General was also culpable for giving poor advice on the matter, Nandlall remarked, “I don’t think the Attorney General appreciates the constitutional violation. He seems to be at sea.”President Granger on Friday refused to accept that his Government had committed a criminal act when it failed to deposit a whopping $US18 million into the Consolidated Fund. It had negotiated this fund on behalf of the people of Guyana, and had received the money from oil giant ExxonMobil as part of an amended agreement which would spell out the company’s scope of operations in Guyana.Instead, the President sought to further defend the actions of his Peoples National Congress-led A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change Government (PNC-APNU/AFC Govt) by claiming that he would not “knowingly” breach the laws of the country.“Well, I do not accept it was illegal. I will not knowingly do something that is unlawful,” he said, adding, “It has not been proven that a crime… We feel that where the money is located at the time would insulate from being misused or stolen”.He declined to guarantee that officials in his Government would not be tainted or compromised, and induced by the actions of ExxonMobil, as the company’s track record in other countries points to harrowing tales of bribery and corruption.President Granger made this statement despite his Government’s reasoning that taking a 50% salary increase just after six weeks in power would remove the temptation to steal or engage in corruption, after this newspaper broke the story about the clandestine move back in 2015.“God couldn’t confirm that His people wouldn’t commit adultery, and people are still compromised after thousands of years”, the President reasoned, before committing himself to doing everything under the law to safeguard the integrity of his Government and the future of the Oil and Gas industry.“If any maleficence is reported to me, and there are culprits, the culprits will be subjected to the process of the law,” he remarked. He insisted that he was not aware of any body in his Government being compromised.