Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 January 2021, 11:30 by Denis Chabrol
Former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson on Wednesday said he played no role in deciding on gifts that he had been presented, and he vowed that to ensure that “mischievous” disclosure of records would not sully his character.
“In my case, at no time did I ever request, solicit or influence in any way the action of any agency in relation to the presentation of gifts to me or other officials of the government,” Mr. Patterson explained.
“I believe it is also necessary to state that I had no prior knowledge of any decision or details relating to the purchase or presentation of gifts to anyone, including myself,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Patterson, in his statement on Wednesday, for the first time stayed clear of insisting on his earlier initial denial that he had received no jewellry and that he does not wear any.
The former minister, who is the Chairman of the bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, said he assumed that all the rules had been followed in purchasing gifts.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) General Secretary said he assumed that gifts presented to him during his incumbency were fully compliant with the procurement guidelines of the giving agency.
He said the standard policy directives stipulate how such matters should be handled as directed by Cabinet decision, by circular from the Ministry of Finance or by Board policy.
He said reports regarding gifts presented to him as Minister are misleading, mischievous and designed to seek political advantage by either embarrassment or distraction.
Mr. Patterson said that the practice of giving memorabilia and other gifts to Ministers is not new, and Ministers from both sides of the political divide have been presented with gifts and other memorabilia on numerous special occasions.
Mr. Patterson claimed that sections of the media were conspiring to malign and tarnish his good character but he reaffirmed that such a plan is doomed to failure.
He further said he was not blinded or frightened by accusations and he rejects and repudiates the veiled attempt at racial stereotyping in some of the comments circulating in the media space.
Mr Patterson added that, “it has also come to my attention that it is further alleged that I received a number of electronic items, such as phones, iPads and laptops. This is absolutely untrue, and I categorically deny it. Whoever fabricated this lie obviously does not know that, for security and other reasons, I do not accept electronics of any kind from any agency, including the government, and I have always personally selected and purchased all electronic items I own. For instance, for this reason, I did not accept a mobile telephone offered by the Parliament to Ministers”.
Mr Patterson said that the lies and the so-called revelation of the gifts are a deliberate and blatant attempt at character assassination for political purposes, which will not succeed in derailing his objective of overseeing the government’s expenditure and procurement practices through his chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and representation of the Guyanese people in Parliament.
“It would have precisely the opposite effect, as I will be guided by the oversight rules, laws and policies to relentlessly ensure good governance, including proper expenditure according to best practice,” Mr Patterson stated.
He has assured the public of his continued commitment to serving the people of Guyana without fear or favour and that he will not be side-tracked by political attacks or red herring accusations by partisan sycophants who have little or nothing to contribute to the public good and welfare.
“I will resist these baseless attacks from whichever quarters they emanate”.
Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has indicated that the police and Auditor General would be called in. He also urged the Integrity Commission to take note of media reports and initiate steps to ascertain whether those gifts had been declared.
Records show that more than GYD$1.5 million dollars had been spent by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, Demerara Harbour Bridge, Maritime Administration, Cheddi Jagan International Airport,and Transport and Harbours Department to purchase gifts for Mr. Patterson and his then Junior Minister Annette Ferguson. Except in one instance, all of Ms. Ferguson’s gifts had been under GYD$100,000.