Letter: Time has come for former APNU/AFC Ministers to be held accountable

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Dear Editor,

Records have revealed that the Executive Member of the Alliance for Change (AFC) and former Telecommunications Minister under the former David Granger-led Administration was alleged to have signed off on a number of contracts from her then Ministry to her own company. This latest scandal involving the former APNU/AFC Minister and the blatant dishonesty, misrepresentations and mismanagement of taxpayers’ monies is outrageous and too much for the Guyanese people to digest.

The time has come for Former Ministers to be held accountable. The Guyanese public must demand that these Ministers be called to explain when things go wrong under their watch – even if they are no longer in office. Parliament should recall former Ministers to give evidence when policies they have presided over have gone wrong and monies are not accounted for. Governance under the APNU/AFC Administration had become increasingly complex, but that is not an excuse for negligence. The public’s dissatisfaction with the former APNU/AFC Government Ministers’ response to recent and other scandals shows that there were dangerous weaknesses in the previous Administration’s accountability system.

Over the past years, particularly the last five years under the former APNU/AFC Administration, Ministers who would have acted inappropriately or accused of wrongdoing, faced little to no consequences for their actions.

In 2017, the then Public Health Minister Dr George Norton was merely transferred to Social Cohesion Ministry after he came under severe criticisms over the Sussex Street Drug Bond scandal. With Dr Norton at the helm, the Public Health Ministry had paid millions of dollars to a known AFC financier to rent a house to use as a drug bond. Even more contentious was the fact that the contract was sole-sourced under the pretext of “urgency” but a visit to the building found that many cold storage facilities were empty and no tablets were being stored.

In 2018, the then Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry was embroiled in what is now popularly known as the “parking lot scandal” where she and her driver were involved in an altercation with two security guards who were on duty at the building which houses the New Thriving Restaurant at Providence, East Bank Demerara.

The security guards were subsequently arrested after it was alleged they pointed a gun at the then Minister and behaved in a threatening manner. But security footage of what transpired contradicted Broomes’ allegations and, in fact, revealed that she and her driver aggressively attempted to remove “No Parking” signs to facilitate her vehicle. In the end, the then Minister was never charged and then President David Granger never publicly condemned the action.

Moreover, the then Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing, Valerie Patterson-Yearwood was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture under a newly-created portfolio for “Rural Affairs”. She was transferred after it was revealed that her husband had a multimillion-dollar contract to build houses for the Ministry under a special programme. When the scandal was exposed in 2019, the then President Granger had said “at this point, I am satisfied that she has not committed any criminal offence and that she is a fit and proper person…” Also, the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), headed by the then Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson was found to have had breached Guyana’s procurement laws to award the new Demerara bridge feasibility contract.

The former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, along with the former General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Corporation, Rawlston Adams, appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts slapped with a joint charge of conspiracy to defraud. The charge stemmed from the controversial contract awarded for the feasibility study and design of a new Demerara river crossing in 2016.

Most recently APNU/AFC former Junior Infrastructure Minister, Annette Ferguson, now Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), has found herself facing another fresh round of allegations regarding the misuse of public funds.

This time around, Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, in his 2021 budget debate presentation last Friday evening, accused the MP of using the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) fund as her own personal slush fund during her time as junior Minister. These are all shameful acts committed by those former APNU/AFC Ministers. Monies of taxpayers should never be used for personal gain. You must all be held accountable and face the consequences of your actions.

Sincerely,
David Adams