APNU/AFC shamelessly defends Patterson’s corruption, holds PAC hostage

Another example of dictatorial behaviour by a political party is on display in Parliament right now. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is one of the most critical committees in Parliament. It is responsible for scrutinising the Auditor General’s Annual Report. This committee is also responsible for supervising the Auditor General’s Office on behalf of Parliament. Under a previous PPP Government, the Auditor General’s Office was divested from the Ministry of Finance and placed under direct supervision of the Parliament, which assigned the PAC as the direct supervisor for this office.
The PAC is made up of five Government and four Opposition MPs. The Opposition is made up of APNU+AFC and the Joinder Party (ANUG+LJP+TCI). But APNU+AFC, in choosing its four members, chose all four from among its ranks. It totally left out the Joinder Party. In ignoring the presence of another political party among the ranks of the Opposition, APNU+AFC brazenly underlined its dictatorial DNA. Even more brazen in this brute display of dictatorship is its present display of holding the PAC hostage, derailing the work of the PAC and preventing the scrutiny of the Auditor General’s Report.
From mounting evidence, the present Chairman of the PAC, David Patterson, has been shown to receive expensive gold jewellery as gifts bought with taxpayers’ money. While Patterson initially clumsily denied receiving these gifts, insisting they might have been bought but were never delivered to him, thus throwing his benefactors under the bus, he has since defended himself by insisting it is normal practice. But such gifting has not been shown to be normal practice in any scrutiny of Government accounts before 2015.
These unusual and improper behaviours from Patterson and others in his Ministry do not represent the only violation of the accountability and transparency laws of Government. He is presently in front of the courts for violating the procurement laws in the Demerara Bridge Feasibility Study, and there are many other violations in the last five years from his Ministry. It is within this context that the Government MPs have asked Patterson to resign as the Chairman of the PAC.
It makes sense that a man under the heavy burden of corruption should not be chairing the most important committee in Parliament, the one that is responsible for accountability in Government finances. Patterson refuses to resign. The Government MPs have submitted a motion to the PAC, asking for the committee to remove Patterson as Chair, in accordance with the Standing Orders and the rules of Parliament, but the PAC has not been able to meet on the motion for Patterson’s removal. First, Patterson recused himself as Chairman for the proceedings.
Since the rules cater only for an Opposition MP to chair the committee, it means that one of the remaining three has to be nominated to chair in Patterson’s absence. Each of the three remaining Opposition MPs has refused to chair the meeting, thus effectively preventing any meeting from taking place that would result in Patterson’s ouster as Chair. This “wrong and strong” posture by APNU+AFC’s MPs is characteristic of their bullying tactics. If Patterson had any shame and any decency, he would have resigned, not only as Chair, but as a member of the PAC. But for Patterson and his APNU+AFC colleagues, corruption is no reason for him or any of his colleagues to be ashamed. For them, corruption is just a normal everyday occurrence in their management of taxpayers’ money. This is exactly how dictators behave.
No matter what it does, the People’s National Congress (PNC) cannot hide its stripes. It was born out of a greed for power, and has innate, natural dictatorial instinct. Authoritarianism and dictatorship are deeply rooted in its DNA. The present APNU+AFC is nothing more than a name, convenient as a disguise for the PNC. They claim APNU+AFC is a coalition of seven political parties, but four of these so-called political parties exist only on paper. I bet if someone were to ask leading members of the PNC what are the names of these four political parties, they would have great difficulty answering. Those parties are essentially one-man political parties, and even those single persons might have forgotten the names of their parties. A fifth political party, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), is now just a handful of persons pretending they have some meagre support in the communities, but they do not dare compete by themselves in any election, because they would be wiped out.
The sixth party, the AFC, is rapidly going in the direction of the WPA, but most of its members are now integrated into the PNC; so there is no such thing as APNU+AFC, it is really now the PNC defrocked and exposed.
The insistence by APNU+AFC that Patterson’s corruption is nothing to be alarmed about disgraces our parliamentary democracy. It is another stain on the fledgling democracy movement in Guyana. We must not permit their holding the PAC and the Parliament hostage.
The Speaker must convene a meeting of the Selection Committee and ensure that all political parties in Parliament are represented on the PAC. It has always been so until APNU+AFC decided to throw the other party in Opposition to the side. Let us select MPs from all parties to prevent APNU+AFC (PNC) from holding the PAC hostage ever again.