Jun 16, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), David Patterson, was finally removed yesterday from being the head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Patterson’s removal was finalised around 05:30 hrs. by a majority vote after a five-hour-long debate between MPs during the 29th Sitting of the 12th Parliament held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.
The debate was over a motion tabled for him to be removed by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira. The motion was moved by the Minister a little after 23:30 hrs. on Monday; the debate began immediately after and ended until 05:30 hrs. yesterday.
At the end of the debate, 34 MPs voted for Patterson to be removed while 31 voted for him to remain. The 34 represented all 33 PPP/C Government members and joinder list (JLP-ANUG-TNM) member, Lenox Shuman.
As a result of the majority votes, Patterson was officially removed from the PAC Chair. The government has been seeking Patterson’s removal as head of the PAC since February 1, 2021. Teixeira had moved a motion within the PAC calling for him to resign because its government members had lost confidence in him to lead the committee.
Back then government members of the PAC had deemed him unfit to serve as head of committee following scathing reports in January of this year that he had received expensive gifts – including a $900,000 gold bracelet – from several government agencies under his control, while he served as Minister of Public Works under the David Granger Administration.
Patterson was also jointly charged on January 25 alongside former General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC), Rawlston Adams, with conspiracy to defraud.
They are accused of conspiring to defraud DHBC of $162,635,015 which belonged to the Asphalt Plant which falls under the purview of the company.
The charges followed an investigation conducted by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) into a controversial contract awarded for the feasibility study and design of a new Demerara Harbour Bridge in 2016.
As result of the criminal charge and the exposure of Patterson’s alleged wrong doings in the local media, the motion was moved by Teixeira on February 1, 2021, for him to step down as head of the PAC but allowed for him to remain a member of the committee. Patterson had refused to do so which led to another motion being filed within the committee for his removal. That motion reportedly received majority support but Patterson as chairperson of the PAC did not put forward the motion for votes by the members despite the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, had advised that any member of the committee could move a motion for him to step aside.
The government attempted to remove Patterson a second time in a subsequent meeting but failed because he reportedly again refused to put forward the motion for the votes. Another meeting was held and the government failed the third time and legal opinion was obtained from an independent attorney interpreting the Standing Orders to permit the motion by the member but Patterson allegedly disregarded that too.
According to the government, Patterson had asterisked the motion to have him removed from the PAC chair. This move by Patterson with the support of his party comrades prompted the Speaker of the House, Manzoor Nadir, to intervene.
A letter was forwarded to Patterson and copied to other members of the PAC by Nadir, stating that the “Chairperson of a Committee does not have the authority to place an asterisk against a Member’s motion, only the mover could.”
The government argued that Patterson refused to adhere to the Speaker’s letter as well, thus violating one of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly. During yesterday’s debate in the National Assembly to have him removed, Government MPs argued “that he has disregarded the advice of the Clerk of the National Assembly on several occasions with regard to the Standing Orders that a member can move motion for him step down.”
They added that his refusal to adhere to the Speaker’s advice as well, “clearly shows that he has consistently and openly violated the Standing Orders and has introduced a level of bullyism unbefitting of a Member of Parliament.”
Teixeira in her arguments said that by doing so it shows that Patterson is “disrespectful” and is not fit to be the head of the PAC. The opposition MPs in an attempt to defend their view that Patterson is fit to remain as Chairperson of PAC, argued that the government wants to take away the Chairmanship of the Committee from them.
They accused the government of not wanting public spending to be properly scrutinised. This argument, however, was shot down by the government. Government MP, Sanjeev Datadin, said that the government did not file a motion to take away the PAC chair from them.
Rather, he continued, the motion was tabled to remove one opposition member from the Chair who the government considers unfit to lead the committee because of certain allegations laid against him.
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