Exxon’s country manager says ‘signing bonuses customary’ -Recommits to being transparent in the industry
ExxonMobil’s Country Manager, Rod Henson, downplayed claims of secrecy in the signing bonus it paid to the government.
“Let me say that signing bonuses are customary and normal in many petroleum agreements, not all, but in many around the world as part of the total financial agreement”, Henson told media, Sunday night, following a public lecture sponsored by Exxon and hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Henson said the company paid US$18M, “not to any individual but to a government bank account designated by the Ministry of Finance.” He further pointed out, “ExxonMobil, as a commercial entity, we have no role whatsoever in the use or where those funds go. We operate with the highest standard of business conduct.”
On Friday, December 8, local media published a correspondence from the Finance Secretary, Dr.Hector Butts, to the Bank of Guyana Governor, Dr.Gobind Ganga, requesting the opening of an account for the signing bonus, received from ExxonMobil.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman stated on December 8, in the National Assembly, that the document’s publication was a deliberate attempt to humiliate the government. “Nothing that this government has done yesterday, today and will do in the future, is done except to preserve the lives of the people of Guyana”, he added.
Meanwhile, Henson said Exxon remains committed to transparency but noted it must be applied across the industry and not to any one company. “Transparency initiatives in order to be successful should protect proprietary and commercial information, should ensure that they don’t violate any countries laws and should apply to all companies in the extractive industry”, he explained.
The government has announced it will fully disclose its agreement with ExxonMobil this month, as part of its commitment to transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry. ExxonMobil and its partners, CNOOC Nexen and Hess Corp, are currently developing the Liza Field in the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana for oil production by 2020.
Henson noted that as Guyana undergoes measures to become a full-fledged member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), “these types of payments will be made public as part of that process.”
Exxon is a founder of the EITI process which requires all extractive industries: oil, mining, and forestry, to disclose monies it pays to the government. Likewise, the government discloses monies received and an independent third party evaluates and validates the information and publishes it.
Guyana became the 53rd member of the EITI in October. The membership is a signal achievement for all Guyana as it strengthens the good governance framework that the APNU/AFC coalition government has committed to establishing for the extractive industries sector and beyond.