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AFC suggests Patterson’s Public Accounts Chairmanship legally secure but govt has a plan

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 April 2021, 22:47 by Denis Chabrol

David Patterson

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Thursday said vetting of government spending  by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is set to resume next week Monday with David Patterson continuing as chairman, even as the government seemed determined to remove him.

Governance Minister Gail Teixeira did not appear to rule out the government taking a motion to the floor of the National Assembly to use its simple majority to remove Mr. Patterson.

“Many options are in realm of possibilities,” she said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News  whether government would be be taking a motion to the  the National Assembly to change the Standing Order by removing the need for main opposition.

PPP Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

Sources have already said government, as a last resort, amend the Standing Order to allow for PAC members to be drawn from an opposition party. That opens the door for the Chairman to come from the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) whose lone parliamentary representative is Lenox Shuman. He is also Deputy House Speaker and a government advisor on aviation.

The Chairman of the PAC said the committee met and addressed pending issues following further legal advice from AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan who is a well-known Attorney-at-Law. Mr. Patterson said the legal advice provided by an independent lawyer to the Clerk of the National Assembly was “struck out” because the lawyer went outside of his mandate. “There was no way forward. The next item on the agenda was a no-confidence motion and obviously have no way forward, the motion was not allowed,” Mr. Patterson said.

Lenox Shuman

The AFC Leader said there was no precedent in the Commonwealth against a PAC Chairman drawn from the opposition. “Even if they pass the no-confidence motion in the PAC, in these circumstances it is non-binding so you’re just wasting your time and that was what basically was advised by me and it is important that these rules of the committees be understood,” he said.

Government member of the PAC Juan Edghill had sought by way of a motion of no confidence in the committee to remove Patterson as chairman of the PAC. The government wanted Mr. Patterson removed because he received pricey birthday gifts from several government agencies under his ministry while serving as Public Infrastructure Minister. Mr. Patterson has said he had no role in those purchases.

The legal advice to the Clerk of the National Assembly recognises the important role of the opposition-chaired PAC to ensure accountability and transparency. At the same time, the advice states that the Standing Order-a parliamentary rule- governing the PAC should be amended to cater for the prolonged absence or resignation of that committee Chairman.

The Governance Minister, describing the refusal by the PAC Chairman to resign and one of his colleagues from the main opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change to replace him as a “dictatorship of the minority,” said Patterson’s refusal to put a motion has never happened before. “This is an unprecedented situation where a chair refuses to put a valid motion to the floor for decision,” she said.