Jan 27, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Anti-corruption advocate, attorney-at-law Christopher Ram is of the firm belief that former public infrastructure ministers David Patterson and Annette Ferguson should be expelled from Parliament for their involvement in a million dollar gift buying scandal spanning several agencies previously under their control.
Ram made those comments and more during a previous showing of The Glenn Lall Show.
There, Ram stated that the recent revelations of the gift buying scandal is “quite frightening” and begs the question whether the practice of purchasing exuberant gifts was one that spanned other ministers in the previous Coalition government.
The incident, he said has several implications, particularly as it relates to David Patterson as he currently sits as the head of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The attorney posited that, “These persons, cannot in a civilized country, remain as a lawmaker, a member of parliament; in fact, we are dealing with a situation where Patterson holds a prestigious position. That is serious…he is not fit to do that.”
Already, calls have mounted for Patterson to recuse himself as the PAC Chair until a thorough investigation has ventilated all concerns.
The anti-corruption advocate posited that Parliament should intervene and expel both members from Parliament for their actions as clear rules outline what should and should not be done.
In fact, the laws were pellucid that the purchasing of gifts by budget agencies were prohibited under then Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) and a budget circular was even sent out to all agencies outlining this.
In the budget circular sent out by the Finance Ministry’s, Finance Secretary, Michael Joseph, it was stated, “There shall be no expenditure of public moneys expect in accordance with Article 217 of the Constitution.”
But that very mandate was disregarded and millions in taxpayer dollars were expended to purchase gifts for Patterson and Ferguson. In light of the forgoing, Ram posited that both former ministers should be held accountable for their blatant actions.
“We can’t have laws for the powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor, for politicians and non-politicians,” Ram stressed, adding… “They must always be subject to the law. Our Constitution is in place, we are guided by the law. We must all be subject to the law. I believe that every political party has taken money. I think we need to use this as a good opportunity and an example to show society that we are not going to tolerate this type of behaviour.”
Moreover, Ram noted too that keen scrutiny should be placed on the agencies that facilitated the gifts as well because “There is no question that a gift of that magnitude cannot be justified.”
The gift buying scandal only came to light after a special team of auditors appointed to dig into the finances of the State-run Garden of Eden Asphalt Plant discovered a $900,000 gold bracelet purchase for the then General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB), Rawlston Adams.
That find prompted more investigations and a widespread scandal was uncovered with more than $6.7 million expended to purchase exuberant gifts for both Patterson and Ferguson.
Patterson received a total of $2.664 million in gifts and personal effects.
For several of his birthdays (May 4), the then Minister received multiple gifts from the various agencies under his purview. In 2016, he received several gift items from the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) with invoices stating that the payment was for “Gifts for Minister Patterson’s Birthday.”
In 2017, documents show that he received a band from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GGAA) valued at $117,000 purchased from King’s Jewellery World. Included in that purchase was an additional US$90 for the addition of Patterson’s initials using 14K gold.
In August 2018, MARAD also approved payments for gift items for Patterson birthday valued at $243,000. Also in May 2018, he received gifts as well with vouchers spelling out payments of $76,818 and $300,000.
From the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), in 2018, he also received a pen valued at $25,000 from King’s Jewellery World. On May 6, 2019, Patterson was also said to have received another gift from King’s Jewellery World valued at $516,000.
Moving on to 2020 when the country was faced with the elections debacle, the then Minister received a host of gifts for his birthday celebration in May. On May 4, 2020, documents show Patterson received a gift from MARAD valued at $704,292.
On the very same day, another gift was presented valued at $387,486, both purchased from Steve’s Jewellery World by the very agency. The Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD) also presented Patterson with a gift valued at $54,700 on the same date.
In total, Ferguson received $1.4 million in gifts from the very agencies listed. But it was not just jewellery. In fact, both Patterson and Ferguson received $6,757,015 in electronics and household materials all from the DHB.
Those items, he explained, were not listed as asset registers but merely donations. On the list of items he noted, two dell desktops computers valued at $387,222 were purchased for both Ministers along with Apple IPAD Airs priced at $213,750 each.
In addition to that, purchases were also made of televisions, printers, cocktail tables, hallway tables, rugs, safety boots, a bookshelf, two dell PC’s valued $164,600 each, along with a king-size bed set, a king-size mattress, a queen-size bed set and chest of drawers.
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