— as PAC Chair, should next meeting end in stalemate
THE persistent reluctance of members of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition to entertain a motion tabled in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by members on the Government’s side for the removal of David Patterson as Chairman of the committee, is likely to result in the Government members seeking the intervention of the National Assembly.
Should this matter reach the level of the National Assembly, it would be the ultimate end to a stalemate which has persisted for more than a month, leaving the examination of critical public expenditures on the back-burner.
Monday marked the second failed attempt by the Government members to have the motion considered and voted on by the full committee.
The Government, despite the previous outcomes of their attempts, remains resilient in its effort to have the motion considered since Patterson, the former Minister of Public Infrastructure, is being investigated as part of the gift-giving scandal in which, it is alleged, he received in excess of $2 million in gifts from agencies that were under his remit.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, who is the mover of the motion, has said that the Government members are prepared to move to the National Assembly to have Patterson removed as Chairman.
“The next time it [efforts to have the motion considered] fails, a motion will be put to the House to remove him as the Chair… this is not a good thing because a lot of things will come out and it will embarrass him,” Teixeira said in an invited comment to the media following a closed-door sitting of the committee, on Monday.
Teixeira, who had previously advised Patterson to resign as Chairman, said there are still several issues related to the former Public Infrastructure Minister which are yet to be made public.
A decision on whether this matter will indeed reach the House relies on the outcome of the next sitting of the committee, a date for which is yet to be announced.
The outcome of the upcoming meeting would have to be different from Monday’s, which, according to Teixeira, was the same as February 1, when the motion was initially tabled.
“The issue has been that the motion was put the last time and then it was tabled by me, but when it came to the Chairman putting the question [for the vote] he stood up and recused himself… the other [APNU+AFC] members refused to take the chair,” the minister said, adding: “The exact same thing happened the last time [February 1].”
Ironically, according to the minister, although Patterson recused himself from the meeting, he remained in the room, but not in the ceremonial seat of the Chairman.
“This is an untenable situation,” Minister Teixeira lamented, noting: “There is precedence for the Speaker or the Clerk [of the National Assembly] to do it in the absence of a Chairperson… they [APNU+AFC members] do not want that to happen, so we are stuck again.”
With the National Assembly still being a plausible method of resolving this issue, Clerk of the House, Sherlock Isaacs, has since agreed to consult a lawyer for advice on the matter.
“If all this fails, the Clerk has asked for time to consult… the Clerk agreed to consult a lawyer and advise us,” Teixeira said.
She further said: “The standing orders are being totally undermined and ravaged by the Opposition… we are not calling for the Opposition to not chair the committee… we are not calling for him to be removed as a member, we are just against him being chairperson.”
Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill and Government Parliamentarian, Sanjeev Datadin, both members of the PAC, were disappointed in the outcome of Monday’s meeting.
“The Government has done what it needed to do, and that is put a proper motion. All that is required is for it to be voted on,” Edghill said.
Datadin agreed too that the motion was properly tabled, and while he was disappointed in Monday’s outcome, he is hopeful that the matter could be dealt with at the next meeting.