Oil contractWhile the release of the ExxonMobil contract is a good gesture, United Kingdom High Commissioner to Guyana, Gregory Quinn is advising that a more transparent posture is generally needed when contracts of a public nature are inked.Quinn was at the time speaking to Guyana Times on the sidelines after reintroducing UK’s Advisor to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sam Sittlington, to the media. He noted the importance of a transparency first approach to disseminating information.Head of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI), Dr Troy ThomasAccording to the diplomat, a government ought to prioritise what it can release, versus what it cannot.“I’ve talked generally on (releasing contracts) and not just oil. Parking meters, for example; you should be as transparent as possible, in releasing whatever you can. And this is one of the reasons we have released the terms of reference for what Sam’s doing.”“There are some things, be it commercially sensitive or national security purposes that can never be released,” Quinn acknowledged. “But the starting point must be what we can release and what should we release, as opposed to what can’t be released. So any move to increase transparency and increase the information that is out there for public use, I think is good.”The oil contract Guyana has with ExxonMobil was released last month by the Government. Before that, officials from the Government had argued against releasing the contract owing to national security considerations.Preceding the release of the contract, leaked documents had revealed that Guyana received a signing bonus from ExxonMobil. This, too, is surrounded by controversy as the money is being held in a Government bank account and not the Consolidated Fund.The transaction 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 showed that Finance Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Hector Butts, had requested that a foreign currency account be opened at the Bank 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.”Amid criticism, Government officials have defended the secrecy by saying the money would be used to pay legal fees in defence of Guyana’s sovereignty, should its case with Venezuela reach the International Court of Justice (ICJ).A court action was filed by the head of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI), Dr Troy Thomas, in which he sought the transfer of the monies to the Consolidated Fund. When questioned about the case on Wednesday, several officials, including Attorney General Basil Williams, were unaware a case existed against the state.In court documents seen by this publication, Thomas, via his Attorney, claims that the non-disclosure of the funds and the non-transferral of the bonus have breached several sections of the Financial Management and Accountability Act, including Section 38 (1) which states that “all public monies raised and received by the Government shall be credited fully and promptly to the Consolidated Fund, except (a) monies credited to an extra budgetary fund as stipulated in the enabling legislation establishing that fund, (b) monies credited to a Deposit Fund, and (c) as stipulated in the Constitution”.In his affidavit, Thomas claimed that he was advised that the monies were not reflected as part of the 2016, 2017 or 2018 national estimates. He wants the courts to issue orders to correct this and several financial missteps taken by the Government in relation to the bonus.