Oil signing bonusHaving tried unsuccessfully to get the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) to recover the US$18 million signing bonus from a private account and deposit it in the rightful place, Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI) remains worried that the monies will be siphoned off.TIGI President, Dr Troy ThomasTIGI on Wednesday questioned the rationale behind Government opting not to follow constitutional provisions and deposit the multimillion-dollar signing bonus into the Consolidated Fund, rather than an account at the Bank of Guyana. According to the group, the money will remain vulnerable if it is not treated with the necessary constitutional provisions.“We maintain that the signing bonus is vulnerable to capricious and potentially illegal use as long as it is not reflected in the Consolidated Fund where it would receive parliamentary oversight. We also continue to ponder what the Government might find compelling enough as a reason for preferring to violate the constitutional provision on managing public funds and to evade accountability in this matter,” the transparency watchdog said.The TIGI’s statement came in light of recent pronouncements made by SARA’s Director, Professor Clive Thomas, who said recently that there was no premise to go after the money since it is in the State’s possession and there has been no accusation of any misappropriation.However, the transparency body stressed that it never made any accusation of misuse of the money. In fact, TIGI said its request to SARA was to recover the money to be placed into the Consolidated Fund as required by law.“It is important to note that the SARA Director’s expressed view does not challenge the assertion that the signing bonus was deposited outside of the Consolidated Fund. Hence, we conclude that we were unsuccessful at pointing to “any unlawful conduct” in relation to the signing bonus that is compelling enough for SARA to act.”The Government had come under heavy criticism back in 2017 when it was revealed that it received the US$18 million signing bonus from US oil giant ExxonMobil in 2016. In addition of not revealing that it received the money, the coalition was bashed for not depositing same into the Consolidated Fund as required by the Constitution.The bonus first came to light in a leaked correspondence dated September 20, 2016, and addressed to the Governor of the Bank of Guyana with this subject: “Signing bonus granted by ExxonMobil – Request to open bank account”.It shows that then Finance Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Hector Butts, had requested that a foreign currency account be opened at the Bank of Guyana in order to receive a deposit in the form of a ‘signing bonus’ to be given by ExxonMobil.The letter stated, “This account should not be treated as part of the bank’s reserves. Instead, the proceeds should be held in the currency of the deposit, that is United States dollars, and invested in secured interest-bearing securities.”Last year, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had revealed that the money had been transferred overseas to an interest-bearing account while waiting to be used. Of the US$18 million, $15 million was set aside to pay legal fees for the ongoing Guyana-Venezuela border controversy case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the other $3 million for capacity building and training.