Government Ministers should not be given any special treatment, but must be made to face the proverbial music for their actions.
This is according to the Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill, who expressed concern that Public Infrastructure Minister is yet to appear before investigators at the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), whereas members of the former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Cabinet were called in there for questioning in regard to the sale of land at Sparendaam (Pardoville 2), East Coast Demerara.
Patterson had reportedly submitted documents, including a written statement, to SOCU as part of investigations into the contract award of the controversial feasibility study for a new bridge over the Demerara River, but calls are being made for him to officially visit the offices of SOCU.
“It’s not that I want to see people go to jail, or this person become a criminal or be charged or convicted; I want to ensure that there is accountability and transparency, and the same rule that you are using against the previous Administration must also be used for you. The same measure (with which) you judge others you must also be judged. So Minister Patterson should not be escaping or sending in a statement; he must face the music,” the MP asserted.
The contract in question was awarded to Dutch company LievenseCSO for a feasibility study into the new Demerara River Bridge. The Opposition had requested that the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) investigate the award of the $148 million sole-sourced contract.
In its report on the matter, the PPC had flagged Patterson for requesting from Cabinet that the contract be sole-sourced, instead of being processed through the Procurement Board as the law says should be done. It was subsequently announced that SOCU would be investigating.
“Mr Patterson cannot be sitting in his office and dealing with the Police; Mr Patterson must be made to go down to SOCU as well! The cabinet, including President (David) Granger who presided at that illegal decision, must go down…because it was an unsolicited bid that the cabinet approved, (whereas) the cabinet has no power of approval of contracts that were offered to the contractors to do the feasibility study; so it was corruption from the beginning,” Edghill explained.
Edghill posited that the contract was a mere “underhand arrangement,” especially given the fact that an unsolicited bid reached the desk of the minister.
“That was corruption in itself. How could this company know that the Government was searching for a contractor if somebody didn’t leak some information, or if somebody didn’t meet somebody in a private room, or (if) there was no underhand arrangement?” he questioned.
The Opposition MP said everyone in law enforcement must understand exactly what was done, and the precedent that was set must apply in this matter.
“If not, this nation will be witnessing what is called double standards, and it would be conforming that all of the actions being taken by SOCU are politically directed as a witch hunt against political opponents,” he added.
“But this case with Minister Patterson is a real live case, you don’t have to go dig up for the facts. The Procurement Commission has already issued a report, which is public, and they (SOCU) said they are acting on it. We expect that the same rules of engagement that SOCU has taken as it related to the previous Government would be taken as it relates to Minister Patterson and the cabinet,” he said.