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Lenox Shuman may replace David Patterson as Chairman of Public Accounts Committee

Last Updated on Tuesday, 2 February 2021, 10:58 by Denis Chabrol

Lenox Shuman

Leader of the small opposition Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Lenox Shuman may emerge as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), if the major opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) continues to insist that current chairman, David Patterson must remain as chair.

Efforts by the government members of the PAC to remove David Patterson from its Chairmanship on Monday failed because he refused to put a motion on the floor for him to cease being a member because he is embroiled in a controversy over receiving pricy gifts, funded by several ministerial agencies, for his birthday.

He has also been charged with a multimillion dollar fraud in connection with a feasibility study for the proposed new Demerara Harbour Bridge.

Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Gail Teixeira said on Monday that the issue would have to go back to the Committee of Selection which is chaired by House Speaker Manzoor Nadir. “If the opposition continues on their position that none of them will take the chair, then obviously the Committee of Selection will have to go back and raise the issue as to the selection of the Committee and the Speaker will probably have to get involved in having another election of the (Public Accounts) Committee Chair,” she told reporters.

Well-placed sources have explained that while the government enjoys a 5-4 majority in the Committee of Selection, it is unlikely that the APNU+AFC members would vote for one of its parliamentary colleagues to replace Patterson.  Sources familiar with parliamentary procedures said government might then be forced to use its parliamentary majority to amend the Standing Orders- the rules governing the House and Committees- to allow for the PAC Chairman to be drawn from either the major opposition or a small opposition party as well as increase the number of committee members to allow for Mr. Shuman to be nominated and eventually selected as PAC Chairman.

Mr. Shuman is already Deputy House Speaker, a position that has been conventionally held by the major opposition party, and Aviation Adviser to the government. Shuman is a parliamentarian under the joinder election system that his LJP has shared with A New and United Guyana and The New Movement.

An opposition parliamentarian is required to chair the Public Accounts Committee.

After an internal debate among PAC members, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill said Mr. Patterson refused to recuse himself from a debate over whether he should be removed as the Chairmanship.  Mr. Edghill says after the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs advised that the motion was properly put because no notice was required, Mr. Patterson recused himself from the Chairmanship.

However, Mr. Edghill says the motion was never put to a vote and then the other opposition members of the Public Accounts Committee refused to chair the Public Accounts Committee.

The APNU+AFC believes that government has hatched a plan to remove Mr. Patterson, a British-trained Quantity Surveyor, from the PAC because the PPP wants to escape scrutiny while examining the Auditor General’s reports.

However, several of those reports include 2015 to 2020 when the coalition was in the seat of government