PAC can file No Confidence Motion to remove David Patterson as Chair – AG

As pressure mounts

…Parliament cannot act – Clerk

Calls have been mounting for Opposition Member of Parliament David Patterson to be removed as Chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) 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.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Patterson was appointed Chair of the PAC in December 2020. However, it was recently revealed that, in addition to more than $2.6 million worth of jewellery in gifts, large sums of money were spent to buy personal furnishings for the then Public Infrastructure Minister and his junior at the time, Annette Ferguson.
As such, his successor, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, who disclosed an extensive paper trail of Ministry vouchers and receipts from jewellery stores, has called for Patterson to be removed as Chairman of the PAC.

Cannot act
However, when contacted on Thursday, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, noted that there is nothing Parliament can do at this moment. He explained that as it is, these are allegations, and according to the Constitution of Guyana, unless Patterson is charged and convicted for criminal conduct, they cannot intervene. The Clerk noted that it will be up to Patterson to decide whether he will step down or not.

Former Minister David Patterson

Efforts by Guyana Times to contact Patterson were futile. Calls to Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, also went unanswered on Thursday.

No confidence
When asked whether the PAC can do anything in this situation if Patterson refuses to resign from the Chairmanship, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall told this newspaper, “The Committee itself can move a motion of no-confidence against Patterson being the Chairman of that Committee.”
However, Nandlall contended that this is a question of morality and leadership. He pointed out that the Public Accounts Committee is the most fundamental mechanism in a parliamentary democracy to scrutinise the financial accountability of public expenditure.

Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs

“How can the person who chairs such a unit commit such an egregious and flagrant transgression against accountability and financial propriety as Patterson did and still continue to chair such a committee. It’s a question of public confidence, it’s a question of the moral authority of he who holds the Chair of such a committee, and I dare say that MP Patterson has disqualified himself from holding such a position,” the AG asserted.
He went on to outline that Patterson has already admitted to receiving these items, so the question of whether they were properly or improperly procured is now irrelevant.
According to Nandlall, “The acceptance by him of those items is what is palpably wrong. Moreover, he’s required to disclosed them as a matter of law to the Integrity Commission under the Integrity Commission Act. I could bet my bottom dollar that he did not do so. How can a Minister accept gifts from a Department under his Ministerial portfolio purchased with public funds such as personal jewellery and bedroom furnishings?”
The Attorney General further noted that this is the most “obnoxious form of corruption and graft.” He then questioned how the nation can now repose trust and confidence in such a person to exercise parliamentary oversight on matters such as misuse and abuse of funds, corruption, and lack of accountability.
Asked whether the PPP/C Government would be taking any action based on these findings, Nandlall said the matter is under consideration.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Minister Edghill showed the media vouchers and receipts from jewellery stores showing that over $2.6 million worth of gifts and personal items were purchased for Patterson, mostly for his birthday – by various agencies that fell under his Ministry.
For instance, $704,292 worth of gifts were purchased for the then Minister 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, on May 4, 2020, a further $387,000 was spent.
In May 2018, a further $600,000 was spent by MARAD for gifts for Patterson’s birthday, including a sum of $300,000 that was spent on May 3, 2018 and then the next day, $384,700 was 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 jewellery gift certificate.
On May 4, 2017, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) spent $117,200 on a gift for Patterson. 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.
According to the Public Works Minister, Patterson was collecting items purchased by agencies under his remit as far back as 2015, months after coming to office.
Edghill was in possession of a spreadsheet of items he said were purchased for Patterson and his then junior Public Infrastructure Minister, Annette Ferguson.
It was also revealed that 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 Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation. According to Edghill, these were all listed as donations.
Only recently, a probe at the Asphalt Plant, which falls under the DHBC, found that some $424,700 of taxpayers’ money was spent to purchase a hand band for the former Minister from the Plant’s Fund. Additionally, a sum of $76,300 was spent to purchase a tie pin for the former Minister.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Wednesday, Patterson admitted to accepting some of the gifts, but insisted that the practice is nothing new. He contended that he thought all the gifts he received were purchased by the various agencies after they got the necessary clearance to do so. (G8)