– cannot preside over accounts when implicated in wastage of taxpayers’ dollars
While the Opposition maintains its faith in Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman David Patterson, committee member Juan Edghill has made it clear that Patterson’s actions while in Government make him an unacceptable choice to preside over accounts from that period of time.
In a statement to the media on Tuesday, Edghill made it clear that Patterson should not preside over PAC meetings when he was part of the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government and was, furthermore, the recipient in acts of questionable spending by Government agencies.
“Our contention is that he cannot, and should not, preside over meetings of the PAC that is examining spending by APNU/AFC of which he was a part, and which, based upon evidence, he himself is embroiled in acts of questionable spending, including the acceptance of expensive gifts,” Edghill said in the statement.
The refusal by any other member of the Opposition to serve as a presiding officer must be seen for what it is: dubious, deceptive, and set in a mode of trickery. All should be aware that Mr. Patterson presided over the debate, a clear conflict of interest, since he was the subject and the party that would have been affected by the successful passage of the motion.”
According to Edghill, the Government side of the PAC was unable to have their voices properly heard during that debate. Moreover, they were berated with insults during the meeting. He also noted that the Opposition’s refusal to take up the Chairman’s seat that Patterson recused himself from is part of a plot to render the PAC defunct.
“Once clarification was given by the Clerk of the National Assembly that the Motion was properly put, and should be proceeded with, the next logical step was a vote. The actions of the APNU/AFC members of the PAC put public scrutiny and accountability in jeopardy since, apart from the task of scrutinising the Public Accounts for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, that (are) currently before the Public Accounts Committee we have the task of the approval of the Auditor General’s Budget for 2021,” Edghill explained.
According to him, the Auditor General’s 2021 budget must be presented to the Parliament by the Chairman of the PAC. Additionally, there is also the important task of reconstituting the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
“The abovementioned agenda items are of great national importance, and should they not be done, will seriously affect transparency, accountability, and good governance. The overdrive of the Opposition, spurting spurious, infantile and totally extraneous arguments will not make the case. The fact remains Mr. David Patterson, while functioning as Minister of Public Infrastructure during the Period 2015 June to 2020 July, received expensive gifts.”
There have been calls for Patterson to be removed as PAC Chairman after he admitted to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts while he was a Minister. These gift items, which consisted of gold jewellery, were purchased by agencies under the then Public Infrastructure Ministry which he headed in the previous APNU/AFC Government.
Patterson is, meanwhile, also in hot water when it comes to the sole-sourced contract to Dutch company Lievense CSO for the design of the new Demerara river bridge. At present, he is out on $200,000 bail, and will return to court on February 15.