The Auditor General announced his intention of auditing a Chinese company depositing US$9000 into the private account of Minister David Patterson. Minister Patterson now insists there was nothing sinister in that deposit, it was not a bribe and not in any way related to any corruption. The Minister’s justification for a US$9000 deposit in his personal account in 2017 by a Chinese company was just a refund for a meeting the Chinese company invited him to attend in early 2016. Minister Patterson insists he used money from the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), an agency under his Ministry, and that when he was refunded in 2017, a year later, he refunded the money to MARAD.
Minister Patterson tried desperately to deflect the truth when he demanded that people be charged for exposing information in his personal account. Patterson was a lead voice once for whistleblowers. Now that he is in the shoe, he wants people charged. But this deflection will not make the corrupt perception disappear. Why was a refund only given almost a year after Minister Patterson attended the meeting in Macao? Did he receive Cabinet approval to use money from MARAD? Who at MARAD approved such use and what evidence is there to show the money ever left Minister Patterson’s account and returned to MARAD’s account? While the Minister was loud in his denial, he never provided any evidence to support his side.
Minister Patterson and his colleagues, when they were in Opposition before 2015, were critical of Chinese companies operating in Guyana, claiming the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was allowing the Chinese to take over Guyana. In fact, they blocked the Budget for significant projects in 2013 and 2014 in which Chinese companies were engaged. These projects included the Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion, the East Coast highway, GPL, and the Amaila Hydro-electric Project etc. After Patterson’s visit to the Macao meeting and a meeting earlier in China which Joseph Harmon attended, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change’s (APNU/AFC) Chinese perspective changed; the Chinese companies were welcomed with open arms, and all the projects, excepting Amaila, resumed. Indeed, existing contracts were amended and became sweetheart deals. CJIA’s US$150 million contract retained the sum, but reduced the scope of work, with new terminals becoming rehabilitated terminals and, instead of eight air bridges, we ended up with two, with an additional two added at Government’s additional cost. There were billion-dollar contracts for GPL etc. What happened in Macao that changed their perceptive?
Almost two weeks after the Patterson reports, President Granger has said nothing. The Prime Minister has said nothing. The former Minister of Business, now in charge of Manufacturing in that Ministry, dared anyone to prove him wrong, that the allegation of the $9000 deposit in Minister Patterson’s account is nothing but fake news – just a PPP fabrication. With Patterson’s admission that the deposit was real, Gaskin has become silent. Minister Jordan admitted the deposit is not usual practice, as Patterson claims. This Patterson fiasco demands a Commission of Inquiry, but no one should hold their breath.
Meanwhile, a senior Minister of Government deemed Guyanese innately corrupt, that corruption and cheating are merely every day reflections of who we are as a people. With corruption endemic and never more pervasive, with APNU/AFC consolidating its position as the Caribbean Community’s most corrupt Government, the Government of Guyana is openly rationalising corruption. This past week, Minister Cathy Hughes, the Telecommunications Minister – exposed for giving contracts to a company she owns – explained that Government’s corruption and cheating only reflect the Guyanese culture, nothing to worry about.
It is now past a week since Minister Hughes defended her Ministry’s and Government’s corruption by saying the real problem is Guyanese people, who are all innately corrupt. The President has said nothing about one of his Ministers insulting the Guyanese people. His silence speaks volumes. But recall some time ago President Granger in addressing the issue of Government’s corruption, similarly, dismissed people’s concerns of the runaway train of corruption, positing that the Private Sector is itself corrupt, that the media and the Guyanese people must, instead, focus on corruption in the Private Sector. The problem, from the President’s perspective, was not the Ministers and Government officials, but those who actually provide the perks and bribes. This is the kind of attitude and mindset that saw six Ministers and other Government officials jetting away to Trinidad, at taxpayers’ expense, to create a spectacle at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) meeting, with the only justification being the CCJ Judges needed to know Government is serious; Government giving the Guyana Elections Commission another more than $3 billion, “just in case”; the Housing Minister giving her husband lucrative contracts and another Ministry giving out contracts like half a billion dollars for a warehouse it did not need and medicines costing triple-time the real cost. It is why they disregard the Integrity Commission. The APNU/AFC’s perspective that corruption is no big deal, that it is a reflection of the Guyanese culture is damning, an insult to every decent Guyanese.