–motion to be tabled for his removal as PAC Chair
WITH the 28th Sitting of the 12th Parliament scheduled for June 10, 2021, it is the intention of the government Members of Parliament (MP) to table a motion before the House for the removal of A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) MP, David Patterson, as the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
This was confirmed by government member of the PAC, Bishop Juan Edghill, who told the Guyana Chronicle on Friday, “That’s our intention; for him to be removed as the Chairman.”
Noting that the Government members “tried at the level of the Committee” but “now have to go to the House”, Mr. Edghill said,
“I would hope that motion becomes unnecessary; that Mr. Patterson would do the decent thing and resign. I would hope that he would do the decent thing, but it seems that decency is something that is foreign to the APNU+AFC.”
On February 1, 2021, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira attempted to put forward a motion seeking to remove Patterson from his post as chairman of the committee, but it was met with objections from the Opposition side of the PAC.
According to information provided by the Parliament on their website, the PAC responsibilities are to examine the audited accounts presented in the Auditor General’s Report; exercise general supervision over the functioning of the Auditor General; and nominate the members of the Public Procurement Commission for approval by the National Assembly.
Teixeira, in presenting her motion, said that the government, acting on behalf of the people, does not have confidence in Patterson’s competence to scrutinise public spending, while being publicly involved in financial scandals relating to government monies.
At the time the motion was presented, Patterson, the former Minister of Public Infrastructure, was under investigation for being involved in a gift-giving scandal in which, it is alleged, he received in excess of $2 million in gifts from agencies that were under his remit.
Additionally, he has since been slapped with a conspiracy to defraud charge, along with the former General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Corporation, Rawlston Adams, which stemmed from the controversial contract awarded for the feasibility study and design of a new Demerara River Crossing in 2016.
When the PAC sat on February 8, 2021, the stalemate continued, as the opposition remained determined not to replace Patterson as Chairman of the committee. That persistent reluctance on the part of the APNU+AFC members to entertain the motion continued in March, 2021, when Teixeira signaled that it is likely to result in the Government members seeking the intervention of the National Assembly.
The Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, was initially summoned to provide guidance and clarity on the way forward. Isaacs had told the Guyana Chronicle that a possible outcome could be the government moving to amend the Standing Order to allow for Patterson to be replaced.
The government members of the PAC are Teixeira, Edghill, Dharamkumar Seeraj, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo and attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin, while the opposition members are Juretha Fernandes, Ganesh Mahipaul and Jermaine Figueira. The Opposition members have maintained full confidence in their colleague, the Chairman.
When the motion was moved at the committee level, both sides of the committee had accused the other of attempting to obstruct the work of the PAC; the government MPs believe that the stalling of the PAC’s work is an attempt to distract the committee from scrutinising the Auditor General’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 reports.
Similarly, the opposition members of the PAC expressed suspicion that the motion was a tactic to prevent the PAC from moving on to examine government spending for the latter part of 2020 and going forward. Currently, the work of the PAC is far behind schedule, with the committee only now wrapping up examination of the country’s questionable 2016 spendings.