After a marathon session that lasted until the wee hours of today, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was able to pass a motion ejecting Opposition Member of Parliament David Patterson from the Chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Before the motion was passed by a 34 to 31 majority in the National Assembly, the government had to weather a lengthy debate and the calling of a division of votes. But with Opposition MP and Deputy Speaker Lennox Shuman siding with the government, the motion was passed shortly after 05:00hrs.
Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira, who sponsored the motion, referenced events leading up to the motion, including the Opposition’s failure to act after the interventions of Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir and Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs.
“It is clear from the minutes of the PAC, that there has never been an intention in the motion that the Opposition would not chair the PAC. What is the contention is the person holding the Chair, unless the APNU/AFC is saying to us that the only person fit and proper on their side to be the Chair is Patterson.”
“You said there was no disrespect to the Speaker or Clerk. The Speaker wrote a letter on May 3. No acknowledgement. No information to the PAC by the Chair, by electronic means that (he) has received the letter and (he) will take action and comply. Nothing. Silence. And you tell me that you respect the Speaker? You said you don’t disrespect the Clerk. The Clerk came thrice into the committee. He advised you what to do, advised the chairman that the motion was in order and he should put the motion. And the minutes describe what happened.”
Teixeira made it clear that even if the opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) avoids taking up the vacant seat, they will elect a chairman at every sitting if they have to.
“The honourable thing for the member to have done was to resign. He was given that option. And if the opposition feels it doesn’t want to take up the position, then the committee will function and it will elect a Chairman day by day, as required by the standing orders,” she said.
Patterson has been embroiled in controversy after he admitted to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gift items from agencies and departments under the then Public Infrastructure Ministry, which he headed in the previous APNU/AFC Administration.
As such, there had been widespread calls for the embattled Opposition MP to step down as Chair of the PAC – the parliamentary body that is responsible for scrutinising the Government’s spending via the audited reports from the Audit Office of Guyana.
However, the coalition Opposition has been adamant in having Patterson remain the PAC Chairman.
In fact, Teixeira, who is a member of the PAC, had tabled a motion of no-confidence against Patterson at a Committee meeting in February this year but his Opposition colleagues refused to take up his seat, arguing steadfastly for Patterson to be retained.
The Standing Orders stipulate that only the Opposition can chair the PAC. However, when Patterson eventually recused himself to allow the motion, none of his Opposition colleagues took up the chair. Then at subsequent meetings, Patterson failed to put the issue on the agenda.