Govt to table motion to remove Patterson as PAC Chair, cites “bullyism”
– sitting of National Assembly set for next Thursday
Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira is expected to table a motion in the National Assembly for the removal of former Public Infrastructure Minister and current Opposition Member of Parliament, David Patterson, as Chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
In the motion, Teixeira said “…David Patterson has consistently and openly violated the Standing Orders and has introduced a level of bullyism unbefitting of a Member of Parliament, and, in doing so, bringing the image of the National Assembly into disrepute…”
Patterson has been embroiled in controversy after he admitted to receiving millions of dollars in gift items from agencies and departments under the then Public Infrastructure Ministry, which he headed in the previous APNU/AFC Administration.
As such, there have been widespread calls for the embattled Opposition MP to step down as Chair of the PAC – the parliamentary body that is responsible for scrutinising Government’s spending via the audited reports from the Audit Office of Guyana.
However, the coalition Opposition has been adamant in having Patterson remain the PAC Chairman.
In fact, Teixeira, who is a member of the PAC, had tabled a motion of no-confidence against Patterson at a Committee meeting in February this year but his Opposition colleagues refused to take up his seat, arguing steadfastly for Patterson to be retained.
The Standing Orders stipulate that only the Opposition can chair the PAC. However, when Patterson eventually recused himself to allow the motion, none of his Opposition colleagues took up the chair. Then at subsequent meetings, Patterson refused to put the issue on the agenda.
In her motion now to the National Assembly, which was filed on Thursday, Teixeira said that the issue even prompted Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, to intervene on two occasions to settle the matter.
According to the motion, it was eventually agreed that the Clerk would seek legal advice from a lawyer who was “not politically aligned” on the interpretation of the Standing Orders in relation to the appointment of the Chairperson, which was obtained and circulated on March 23 but was not put to the Committee despite being on the agenda at the next meeting on April 12.
“…the Chairperson refused to allow a motion for the adoption of the legal opinion circulated by the Clerk and repeatedly ignored and refused to allow motions to go to Item 2 on the agenda and ‘put’ the ‘Motion for the removal of the Chairperson’ instead he overrode every effort to do so and moved to other items on the Agenda,” the motion stated.
Further, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister detailed that at the subsequent PAC meeting, Patterson had “asterisked” the motion for his removal – a move which attracted the attention of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir.
“… on May 3, 2021, the Speaker of the National Assembly wrote the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, copied to all members of the Public Accounts Committee, in which he stated that (i) as Speaker he could intervene in a Committee-related issue in “ very serious and special circumstances;” (ii) the Chairperson of a Committee does not have the authority to place an asterisk against a Member’s motion, only the mover could; (iii) this action by the Chairperson was a ‘gross violation of the Standing Orders and tantamount to bullyism,’ and, (iv) he compelled the Chairperson to ‘put’ the motion…” the motion pointed out.
According to Teixeira’s motion, Patterson has demonstrated that he has no respect for the Speaker and is unprepared to obey his instruction, given that he has not responded to Nadir’s letter.
“…he has disregarded the advice of the Clerk of the National Assembly on several occasions with regard to the Standing Orders and is resolute in his refusal, using all forms of subterfuge, to allow the motion for his removal to be ‘put’ to the vote,” the Motion further detailed.
To this end, Teixeira said that the given Patterson’s open violation of the Standing Orders of the PAC, among other things, the majority of the members of the Committee have lost confidence in him as the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, and as such, ask “Be It Further Resolved: That this National Assembly approves the removal of Mr David Patterson as the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.”
This motion is expected to the tabled in the National Assembly next Thursday when sittings reconvene after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to challenges posed by the pandemic, the National Assembly has not had a sitting since March 2021.
Reconvening of National Assembly
However, the Parliament Office on Friday issued an Order Paper for an upcoming sitting slated for Thursday, June 10. The session will be conducted at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where sittings are being held to allow for adequate social distancing.
Already, a number of Parliament staff including Speaker Manzoor Nadir have contracted the virus. In fact, Nadir had discontinued all meetings of Parliamentary Committees and Sub-Committees at the Public Buildings after five Parliament members of staff had tested positive for COVID-19 in April.
Nevertheless, a number of other matters are listed on the Order Paper to be dealt with at the upcoming sitting, which is a Private Members session, that is, a day set aside to deal with issues raised by the parliamentary Oppositions.
These include questions submitted by Opposition Members for responses on issues such as contracted employees in the Ministry of Housing and Water; COVID-19 relief disbursement; allocations of house lots; infrastructural works; the Haags Bosch landfill; the Corporate Communications Unit at the Guyana Police Force; among others.
The Parliament Office had earlier this week issued a statement announcing that members of the media will be required to produce proof of their COVID-19 vaccination card or a negative COVID test result before gaining access to the National Assembly sittings.
Additionally, all Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff will also have to follow similar protocols.