Ramjattan insists compromised Patterson remains as PAC Chair


Leader of Alliance For Change and Opposition Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan has stated that the Government parliamentarians have to get used to former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson being the Chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Patterson has been embroiled in controversy after he admitted to receiving millions of dollars in gifts from agencies and departments under the then Public Infrastructure Ministry, which he headed under the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration.

As such, there have been widespread calls for the embattled Opposition MP to step down as Chair of the PAC – the parliamentary body that is responsible for scrutinising Government spending via the audited reports from the Audit Office of Guyana.

However, during AFC’s virtual press conference on Wednesday, former Public Security Minister Ramjattan reminded that it is the parliamentary Opposition that “calls the shots” as it relates to the selection of the PAC Chairman.

“If they want to change that rule that has a standing in the Standing Orders, that will carry it to an extremely far way [and] that will be extraordinarily unacceptable. So, they better start getting used to David Patterson’s chairmanship there… Otherwise, we might very well end up not participating in anything,” the AFC leader asserted.

Earlier this month, Government had tabled a motion of no confidence against Patterson at the PAC meeting, but his Opposition colleagues refused to take up his seat, arguing steadfastly for Patterson to be retained.

The motion was moved by Government Chief Whip and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira.
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 thus leaving the meeting in limbo.

Teixeira had told reporters that if the Opposition continued to refuse the chairmanship, then the matter may very well return to the Parliamentary Committee of Selection.

Nevertheless, during Wednesday’s press conference, Patterson reminded that he still remained Chairman of the PAC with the support of the APNU/AFC. He added that the matter would be further dealt with at the next PAC meeting, which will not be until after the upcoming budget debates and consideration of estimates.

Last month, Patterson’s successor, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill presented to the media vouchers and receipts from jewellery stores, showing that over $2.6 million worth of gifts and personal items were purchased for Patterson, mostly for his birthday – by various agencies that fall under the Ministry.

Patterson had admitted to accepting some of the gifts, but insisted that the practice was nothing new.

Meanwhile, the former Public Infrastructure Minister is also in hot water over the sole-sourced contract to Dutch company LievenseCSO for the design of the new Demerara River bridge. At present, he is out on $200,000 bail.