Last Updated on Friday, 2 July 2021, 16:40 by Denis Chabrol
After failed efforts to re-elect David Patterson as Chairman of the House bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC), his fellow opposition parliamentarian Jermaine Figueira was elected to chair that accountability mechanism that oversees how public monies have been spent.
Mr. Figueira said the House Speaker Manzoor Nadir and Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs advised that Mr. Patterson could not be nominated to head the PAC because of the motion. The Region 10 parliamentarian, who is also the Shadow Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport said A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) eventually relented and he was nominated to head the key House Committee.
Mr. Figueira said he would be relying on teamwork, his tertiary qualifications in Business Administration, experience and “know-how” as a PAC member from 2015 to present and support from former PAC Chairman Patterson, a Quantity Surveyor. “Nevertheless, Mr. Patterson is there and he will continue to give guidance in this regard. Like I said, it’s a team effort and we are prepared to work as a collective to ensure that we have proper accountability and transparency of the people’s money,” Mr. Figueira told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News.
Despite references by Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira that the opposition benches in the 65-seat House were not only made up of APNU+AFC legislators- a hint that government might have eventually taken steps to make Liberty and Justice Party parliamentarian Leno Shuman the PAC Chair- , Mr. Figueira hailed the fact that his coalition was still chairing the committee.
The convention in Commonwealth legislatures is that the PAC Chairmanship is drawn from the major opposition political party, and already the newly-minted PAC Chairman scoffed at any suggestion of Mr. Shuman being at the helm. “We do not believe that any attempt to amend that wording in the Standing Order augurs well for good governance and it is self-evident that Mr. Shuman is a camouflage PPP,” he said, adding that Mr. Shuman has never voted with the APNU+AFC on any issue.
Mr. Shuman is Deputy House Speaker and Aviation Advisor to the Guyana government.
By a majority vote of 34 to 31 in the House, Mr. Patterson was removed as PAC Chairman after he had refused to allow a government-sponsored motion of confidence against him to be debated in the PAC.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had said that Mr. Patterson had not been not fair, had refused to give government members of the PAC a hearing and had even ignored the inputs of the Speaker and the Clerk of the National Assembly to resolve the issue.
The PPP’s efforts to remove Mr. Patterson had come against the backdrop of him having been embroiled in a controversy over receiving pricy gifts from a number of government departments that had been under his then Public Infrastructure ministerial portfolio and an alleged fraud charge concerning a feasibility study for the proposed new Demerara Harbour Bridge.