Public Accounts Committee business at a standstill

Representatives  of several  agencies  who  were slated to defend spending and other issues raised in the 2016 Audit Office of Guyana Report were unable to do so on Monday. The Public Account Committee meeting scheduled for Monday had to be adjourned. The adjournment came after a brouhaha over a motion tabled by the government to have Patterson be removed as Chairman of the PAC.

The PAC meetings are usually opened to the public and the media but journalists were told that the committee was dealing with “housekeeping” matters and those issues are done in camera. The subsequent debate on the tabling of the motion, the intervention of the Clerk of the National Assembly and the eventual stepping down of Patterson were not captured by the media.

Speaking outside of the the Parliamentary chambers, government member Juan Edghill told the media that the government members do not believe that Patterson should continue to serve as Chairman of the body, “especially in light of what is taking place publicly,” he said.  Edghill is referring to charges against Patterson former Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Ralwston Adams who have been charged jointly for allegedly defrauding the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation. The former Public Infrastructure Minister and Adams have been placed on bail. The Minister and his junior Anette Ferguson have also been publicly criticised for accepting various gifts from several government agencies.

Edghill said that the government’s motion was not aimed at removing Patterson as member of the PAC  but to ask him not to preside as the chairperson. He told the media that the Clerk has determined that the motion presented was “proper” adding that when Patterson stepped down as chairperson, none of the opposition members opted to chair the meeting, “their attitude is one of railroading, railroading” Edghill exclaimed.

Government Member Gail Texeria who brought the motion said that she is calling for Patterson’s resignation as Chairman, “nothing I proposed is asking that Mr Patterson be removed as a member of the Public Accounts Committee,” she told the media.

Opposition Member Ganesh Mahipaul described the government’s actions as shocking, “very strange that a motion just appeared from thin air,”  Mahipaul said flanked by other members of the opposition. Mahipaul said the opposition has “has full confidence in Mr David Patterson and we have given him that authority and that privilege to chair the Public Accounts Committee.”

Opposition Member Jermaine Figueira maintains that the former Chairman of the PAC had several charges and was allowed to chair the PAC, “It is the opposition that scrutinises the spending of monies, the government cant say to the opposition who they prefer.”

Some MPs posited that the issue of the chairmanship of the committee may have to return to the Committee of Selection for further discussion and a possible decision. Today, Patterson declined comment.