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Plans to change PAC Chairmanship rules amount to removing “guardrails of democracy”- APNU+AFC

Last Updated on Friday, 26 March 2021, 11:35 by Denis Chabrol

The opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU) has condemned apparent efforts by the government to amend the rules of the National Assembly and move a motion to remove the current Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, David Patterson.

The governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) wants him removed because he accepted very expensive birthday gifts bought with State funds while he had been Public Infrastructure Minister.

But the coalition has fired back, saying  that although then PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali had been facing 19 fraud charges, the APNU+AFC-led administration had never removed him because conventionally the opposition chairs that committee.

“Scrutiny of spending and of all other financial matters demands impartiality; and, a Chairman from the Opposition appointed exclusively by the main Opposition is fundamental for such impartiality,” the coalition said.

APNU+AFC says the law and practice on this matter is not “who the Government finds unfit and improper, but who the main Opposition finds fit and proper.”

APNU+AFC fears that the government may use its simple majority in the House and the PAC to go after other members of that financial accountability committee that relies on the Auditor General’s reports to ascertain why certain amounts were spent and whether safeguards were in place to ensure transparency and accountability.

“The law and practice on this matter is certainly not who the Government finds unfit and improper, but who the main Opposition finds fit and proper.  “Just like Bishop Edghill and his team is seeking to do David Patterson, they can easily do so to” Ms Juretha Fernandes, Mr. Jermaine Figueira  and Mr. Ganesh Mahipaul.

Days after the Clerk of the National Assembly received legal advice that states that the parliamentary rule should be amended to cater for the prolonged absence or resignation of the PAC Chairman, the Coalition flayed the government for eroding the right and power of the opposition to hold the PAC Chairmanship.

The opposition says the longstanding standard should be kept, instead of attempting to dismantle “the guardrails of democracy.”

The legal advice, at the same time, notes that the PAC Chairmanship in England and the Commonwealth should come from the opposition to scrutinise government spending.

The APNU+AFC says the attempt at Mr Patterson’s removal is what is stymieing the work of the PAC, rather than his absence, inaction or stalling.

Government sources have said the Irfaan Ali-led administration appears to be setting the stage for the amendment of the Standing Order to allow for the appointment of a PAC Chairman from any opposition party to clear the way for the appointment of Liberty and Justice Party leader, Lenox Shuman.

Shuman is also employed by the government as an Aviation Adviser. He is also Deputy House Speaker.