Amidst shallow allegations from government minister Juan Edghill that although he has done nothing illegal, Patterson like most Ministers on both side of the house, accepted more than seven thousand US dollars (USD$7,000) in jewellery as birthday gifts while he served as Minister of Public Infrastructure over the five year period from 2015 to 2020.
Edghill’s allegations come against the background that there are no guidelines as to acceptance of gifts by government ministers, and the AFC pointed out that ministers under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administrations have also received gifts.
The AFC said the recent revelations against Mr. Patterson should be seen as an opportunity to formulate rules governing the acceptance of gifts by government ministers.
The AFC which represents the smaller of the two major parties in the opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU+AFC) coalition, dismissed calls by Public Works Minister Juan Edghill for Patterson to step down as Chairman of the House bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Instead, the AFC wants Edghill to issue an apology to Patterson vowing that his plan to tarnish Patterson’s reputation to render him ineffective as chair of the PAC will not work.
“We assure the public that this plan will not work and is doomed to failure. The PPP Administration, including the elected and the appointed, is dreadfully afraid of what will be highlighted as the work of the PAC progresses under the stewardship of Mr. Patterson,” the AFC said.
“The larger issue here might be that a complete re-examination of gifting with a view to establishing clearer policy guidelines on the issue of Ministerial gifts from Ministries, Agencies and Departments is needed to be done by the government.
This, we believe is required to ensure accountability and transparency, in contrast to Mr. Edgehill’s rants, which have only served to generate disrespect instead of guidance on the matter which should be important to all Guyanese,” that party said.
“The AFC wishes to state categorically that it has full confidence in the integrity of Mr. Patterson and holds him as a person of great fortitude of character, who performed his duties as Minister of Public Infrastructure in the APNU+AFC Administration with the highest standards of public probity,” the party said in a statement on Thursday.
Records released by Edghill have shown that Patterson had received pricey gifts purchased with funds from the Maritime Administration, Transport and Harbours Department, Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, Demerara Harbour Bridge and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
Then Junior Minister of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson’s name has also been associated with the purchase of birthday gifts most of which had been under USD$400.
Minister Edghill plans to call in the police and Auditor General. He has also called on the Integrity Commission to take note of media reports and ascertain whether Mr. Patterson’s gifts had been declared.
- Countries: Guyana