The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and by extension, scrutiny of the Government accounts, remains in limbo as the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) refuses to take up the Chairmanship post left vacant by the embattled David Patterson.
After weeks of not meeting to scrutinise the Auditor General’s 2016 report, a meeting of the PAC was called on Monday to deal with a motion for Patterson’s removal. According to PAC member, who is also the Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira, the APNU/AFC continued to refuse to take up the chair as is their responsibility according to the standing orders.
“The issue is, the motion was put the last time. Tabled by me. The Chairman then stood up and recused himself from the meeting. There’s no Chairperson. The other members said they’re not chairing. The meeting was aborted,” Teixeira explained.
“The same thing happened today (Monday). We got advice that we were on the right course. I had to amend the order paper to allow for the motion to be put. And as soon as I tabled the motion, he recused himself. No Chairperson. Therefore, the motion was not put to the vote. And he’s sitting in the room but not in the chair.”
Teixeira described the situation as an untenable one, pointing out that there is precedence in the National Assembly for such situations, like the very first sitting when the Speaker of the National Assembly is sworn in.
“The Clerk (of the National Assembly) puts the motion and then the nominations are made. Then the vote is taken. In the committees when the first meetings are held, the Speaker Chairs and when the person is elected he hands over to the Chair. So there is precedence for the Speaker or the Clerk to do it in the absence of a Chairperson. They don’t want to have that happen.”
“So we’re stuck again. And this shows that the standing orders are being totally undermined and ravished by the Opposition. I want to make it clear. We are not calling for the Opposition to not chair the Committee. That’s the Constitution. We’re not calling for Patterson to be removed as a member of the Committee. We’re against him being chair of the Committee, because of what the Committee represents,” Teixeira explained.
According to Teixeira, attempts by Government PAC member Sanjeev Datadin, a prominent lawyer, to offer legal advice on the issue, were rebuffed by the Opposition. As such, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Issacs will be seeking independent legal advice on the way forward.
In the meantime, the work of the PAC remains stalled as Patterson, even though he has recused himself as Chairman, is still legally the Chair of the PAC. Teixeira expressed hope that Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon will resolve the issues within his party if the Opposition is serious about advancing its work of scrutinising the Government.
Last month, the Government members of the PAC had moved a motion to remove Patterson as Chairman. After the motion was moved, however, Patterson recused himself and the Opposition had refused to take up the Chairmanship seat, resulting in a stalemate.
There have been calls for Patterson to be removed as PAC Chairman after he admitted to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts while he was a Minister. These gift items, which consisted of gold jewellery, were purchased by agencies under the then Public Infrastructure Ministry, which he headed in the previous APNU/AFC Government.
Patterson is meanwhile also in hot water when it comes to the sole-sourced contract to Dutch company LievenseCSO for the design of the new Demerara River bridge. He and former Demerara Harbour Bridge General Manager Rawlston Adams have since been charged.