David Patterson’s acceptance of jewellery gifts “mind-boggling” – TIGI President
Former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewellery gifts bought by taxpayers’ money has been described by the President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) Frederick Collins as “mindboggling.”
Patterson has already publicly admitted to accepting the gifts. In an interview with this publication, Collins pointed out that the gift-giving and the scale of the gifts are troubling.
“This issue of gifts is a troublesome one. And the size of the gifts is concerning. Even if one gets a gift from another company, one of the things one does in a Private Sector situation is that you limit it. Those things have to be tokens. Once it gets out of a certain amount, you are inviting suspicions as to why someone would give you a gift like that.”
“Now in this case, what you have is internal. The [Ministry agencies] itself purchasing a gift. It’s mindboggling. It’s very unusual and I’ve never heard such a thing before. I’ve heard of externally, [not within the agency],” the TIGI Head said.
Collins also noted that in light of the revelations against Patterson and his own description of the practice as “nothing new”, checks must be done to determine the full extent of Government spending of taxpayers’ money on jewellery for Ministers.
“And for him to say that it’s a practice before, then we need to get behind what he meant. One should check to find out, because there seems to be a kind of an acceptance that this was some kind of norm.”
In an invited comment, the TIGI Head also noted that Patterson’s Chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is ironic when he faces such allegations. As it is, the former Minister is facing calls from some quarters to resign from the post.
It was revealed recently that the asphalt plant audit ordered by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government uncovered records showing that $424,700 of taxpayers’ money was spent to purchase a hand band for Patterson. Additionally, a sum of $76,300 was spent to purchase a tie pin for the former Minister. Based on the records, the gifts were purchased for Patterson’s birthday celebration in 2017.
In a statement released last week by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition he belongs to, Patterson had admitted to accepting some of the gifts but insisted that the practice is “nothing new.”
Patterson had also contended that he thought all the gifts he received were purchased by the various agencies after they got the necessary clearance to do so.
But at a press conference last week, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill had shown the media an extensive paper trail of Ministry vouchers and receipts from jewellery stores, showing that over $2.6 million worth of gifts and furnishings were purchased for Patterson during his time in office from various agencies under his Ministry.
For instance, $704,292 worth of gifts were purchased for Patterson by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) in May of 2020 – in the middle of the contentious period that followed the March 2 General and Regional Elections. In another case, Edghill showed documents and receipts indicating that on May 4, 2020, a further $387,000 was spent.
In May 2018, a further $600,000 was spent by the Maritime Administration for gifts for Patterson on his birthday. This includes a sum of $300,000 that was spent by MARAD for the purchase of gift items for the former Minister on May 3, 2018. The next day, $384,700 was also spent on gifts for the Minister.
At some point in time, it seemed as though the agency had given up on purchasing jewellery gifts for the former Minister and purchased a $516,000 gift certificate from King’s Jewellery World. Edghill’s documents included a receipt from King’s to that effect.
The Integrity Commission, where Patterson is legally bound to declare all gifts above the value of US$50, has since indicated that it will investigate to see whether the former Minister declared all the gifts he has reportedly received. According to Commission Chairman Kumar Doraisami, they are waiting for the complaint form to be completed. (G3)