Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall on Tuesday lambasted Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader, Kemraj Ramjattan’s for his hypocritical opposition to provisions in the 2021 Natural Resources Fund (NRF) Act, even though they were replicated from the 2019 law passed by the APNU+AFC regime. Those provisions call for all oil revenues to be deposited into the Natural Resource Fund account, until Parliament appropriates transfers to the Consolidated Fund.

Nandlall was at the time, speaking on his weekly programme, “Issues in the News”. During that session, the politician addressed Ramjattan’s recent endorsement of claims made Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, that the NRF is overstated by US$275 billion and that the money ought to be paid to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to satisfy the tax obligations of ExxonMobil and its partners in the Stabroek Block.

Section 15 (1) of the 2021 Act says that “Petroleum revenues shall be directly paid into a bank account denominated in United States Dollars and held by the Bank as part of the Fund.” Further, Section 15 (2) explains that Petroleum revenue include royalties; government’s share of profit oil; any petroleum income tax, additional profits tax or any other future tax levied on the profits of companies or individuals undertaking production operations; any signature or other bonus related to production operations or the award of a petroleum licence; and any other current or future fiscal instrument levied solely or mainly on companies or individuals involved in production operations.

Despite the foregoing, Ramjattan had argued that the NRF is a sovereign wealth fund created under a special and separate law to govern, manage, invest, and use the oil revenues. As such, the payment of taxes for ExxonMobil, as per the terms of the 2016 Production Sharing Agreement, must be made from the revenues of the government which should be channeled through the GRA and subsequently deposited into the Consolidated Fund.

Addressing this claim, Nandlall said, “They passed an Act in 2019 called the Natural Resource Fund Act of 2019. That Act we repealed in 2021 with a new Act. But when you look at the section that Ramjattan finds objectionable, that is the section that speaks to where petroleum revenues shall be directed, it is identical to the very section in our 2021 Act.”

Nandlall then placed both the 2019 and 2021 Acts side by side where it was revealed that the very provision, Section 15, which Ramjattan objected to is under Section 21 in the coalition’s 2019 Act, with no difference.

“We didn’t change Section 21. We replicated (it in) Section 15. Nothing changed. So I don’t know how he has a problem with our legislation. But he had no problem with theirs,” Nandlall questioned.

Ramjattan had also highlighted that Section 38 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) noted that “All public monies raised or received by the government (this includes revenues generated from the oil and gas sector) shall be credited fully and promptly to the consolidated fund. Except money credited to an extra budgetary fund, as stipulated in the enabling legislation establishing that fund.”

Nandlall in response said that is indeed correct, however, Ramjattan failed to understand that the NRF Fund is an extra budgetary fund as stipulated in the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.

“So if it is not to be put in the consolidated fund, it must be credited into an extra budgetary fund as stipulated in the enabling legislation establishing that fund,” he lambasted, noting that the NRF Act is that enabling Act.

He further quoted the FMAA saying, “Monies should be paid promptly and fully into the consolidated fund except monies credited to an extra budgetary fund as stipulated in an enabling legislation establishing the fund. This is the legislation, the Natural Resource Fund Act that establishes an extra budgetary fund called the Natural resource fund. And this Act says that the monies will be paid directly into the Fund.”

With the foregoing in mind, Nandlall maintained his position, dismissing arguments that suggest the separation of taxes, and also asserting that the 2021 NRF Act mandates the entirety of oil sector revenues be placed in the fund. He also underscored the supremacy of the Natural Resource Fund Act over conflicting statutes, emphasizing that accounting principles must conform to legal requirements.


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