Revelations that former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson received millions in gifts and furnishings from the State’s coffers are likely to be investigated by the Integrity Commission which will probe whether the former Minister declared any of these items.
In an exclusive interview with this publication, Integrity Commission Chairman Kumar Doraisami confirmed that the Commission is keeping a close eye on the situation and has initiated the process to investigate Patterson and has sent a complaint form to Patterson’s successor, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill.
“We have taken some steps; we have sent a complaint form to the Minister [Edghill]. Because we cannot do anything until a complaint comes in. So as soon as that form is sent in, we will start proceedings to check whether or not the allegations are true,” he said, admitting that the law does not allow for them to act entirely on their own.
“Receiving of gifts more than $10,000 is a violation of the Integrity Commission laws [without a declaration]. So, we have to look at it. Its an offence. Based on what I read, he seems to be accustomed to gifts being given out. And it’s not being given out personally by employees. It’s taking funds out of Government organisations and spending it lavishly on Ministers and other persons,” he added.
Back in 2017, the former David Granger-led Government had put into place a gazetted Ministerial Code of Conduct. Composed of 11 articles, Article Three had prohibited public officials from accepting “any gift, benefit or advantage from anyone, [except] personal gifts from a relative or friend.”
This provision, Article Three had stated, does not apply to gifts received on behalf of the State. According to Doraisami, if the allegations against Patterson are established to be true then he would be in violation of this Code of Conduct.
“Two things will happen. Let us assume that it’s a fact and it’s established, that will be in contravention of the [Ministerial] Code of Conduct. Secondly, we will check it against his declarations in respect to assets. And if he didn’t put that in, he’ll also be violating that Act. I’m looking at it. It breaks new grounds, because based on what I read it seemed to be a standard procedure that at birthday times these monies would be spent lavishly,” the Chairman said.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Minister Edghill had shown the media an extensive paper trail of Ministry vouchers and receipts from jewellery stores, showing that over $2.6 million worth of gifts and furnishings were purchased for Patterson during his time in office. And one thing these gifts have in common is that they were purchased for Patterson’s birthdays.
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.
It was revealed recently 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 Patterson. 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.