Millions in taxpayers’ money spent on buying jewellery, bed sets, other gifts for Patterson, Ferguson
…fmr Minister admits to receiving gold bands
…DHBC GM resigns, Asphalt Plant Head transferred
Revelations that former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company (DHBC) might only be the tip of the iceberg.
Documents released by his successor, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, show that other agencies that fell under Patterson’s remit also vied to provide the former Minister with millions of dollars in gifts, using taxpayers’ money.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Edghill showed the media an extensive paper trail of Ministry vouchers and receipts from jewellery stores, showing that over $2.6 million worth of gifts and personal items were purchased for Patterson. And one thing these gifts have in common is that they were purchased at various times as gifts for Patterson’s birthday.
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.
“Everyone will recall we had an election in March 2020, May of 2020 is when we’re in the middle of court cases and getting ready for a recount. Mr. Patterson had his birthday, and gifts were bought for Mr. Patterson,” Edghill said.
“These are the kind of gifts Mr Patterson accepted, that he said followed the rules and he thought everything was okay. At no time did he say to the agency heads, why are you bringing me these expensive gifts? Where is the moral compass, that you will sit and preside and accept gifts of $704,000?
“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 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 Jewelry World. Edghill’s documents included a receipt from King’s Jewellery to that effect.
On May 4, 2017, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) spent $117,200 in a gift from King’s Jewellery World for the Minister. The Transport and Harbours Department and Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) were also flagged for buying gifts and memorabilia for the then Minister, although in the airport’s case it was for the purchase of a $25,000 memorabilia that Edghill noted he had no problem with.
But Edghill also revealed that Patterson was collecting items purchased by agencies under his remit as far back as 2015, months after coming to office. Edghill brought with him a spreadsheet of items he said were purchased for Patterson and his then junior Public Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson.
Bed sets, iPad, laptops
According to Edghill, the two Ministers had a pair of Dell Latitude laptop computers and Apple Ipads purchased for them. Additionally, personal items like double and single mattresses, a double bunk bed, queen size mattresses and bed sets, as well as king size mattresses and bed sets, were purchased by the DHBC. According to Edghill, these were all listed as donations.
However, under the Integrity Commission Act, gifts and donations must be declared to the Integrity Commission. He questioned whether this was done, and urged the commission to investigate and take action where necessary.
The gifts revealed at Edghill’s press conference do not include the money spent buying gold jewellery for the former Minister from the DHBC Asphalt Plant Fund – purchases he acknowledged receiving in a statement today.
In a statement released by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition- a statement devoid of any criticism of the gifting spree on taxpayers’ money – Patterson admitted to accepting some of the gifts, but insisted that the practice is nothing new.
Patterson 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. The APNU/AFC statement posited that Patterson “assumed that gifts presented to him during his incumbency were fully compliant with the procurement guidelines of the giving agency.”
It was revealed over the weekend 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 former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, who is Edghill’s predecessor.
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.
But Patterson is not the only public official for whom generous gifts were purchased using money from the Asphalt Fund.
The investigation into the operations of the asphalt plant had also revealed that the General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company, Rawlston Adams, had spent in excess of $800,000 to purchase a bracelet for himself.
According to Edghill, who held a meeting with officials from the DHBC on Wednesday to ensure a smooth transition, Adams has since resigned from his position as General Manager. Additionally, the former head of the Asphalt Plant, Troy Halley, has since been transferred to the DHBC.
“There is an interim arrangement on how the bridge and plant will be managed, until the board is able to put in place the necessary mechanisms for interviews, shortlisting and appointment of a General Manager. These actions are necessary actions to ensure public confidence in a public corporation as it relates to public monies. The investigative report on the asphalt plant has been quite damning. The remaining managers and senior people have been spoken to by me and the board, and more changes are to come,” he said.
Minister Edghill also made it clear to the media that a shakeup is imminent at the other agencies falling under his remit that facilitated this gift buying spree under the former APNU/AFC Government. (G3)