MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, March 28, 2021 - There is a custom and practice in Guyana’s National Assembly, where the Public Accounts Committee of parliament is chaired by the main opposition party. Guyana's main opposition, A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) has appointed David Patterson to chair the committee.
However, the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) wants him removed because according to a Juan Edghill led parliamentary 'witch-hunt' committee, he accepted birthday gifts bought with State funds while he had been Public Infrastructure Minister.
Wiredja understands that the PPP is not comfortable with the no-nonsense approach to the PAC taken by Patterson, and would be more at ease with 'a friend in court' such as Deputy House Speaker and leader of the Liberty and Justice Party Lenox Shuman. Shuman is also employed by the government as an Aviation Adviser.
The opposition is crying foul on the basis that longstanding custom and practice should remain intact, instead of attempting to dismantle “the guardrails of democracy.”
The Clerk to the National Assembly was instructed to seek advice on the matter, and reported that the PAC Chairmanship in England and the Commonwealth should come from the opposition to scrutinise government spending.
The Clerk also received legal advice that the parliamentary rule should be amended to cater for the prolonged absence or resignation of the PAC Chairman. However, the opposition maintains that the attempt at Mr Patterson’s removal is what is stymieing the work of the PAC, rather than his absence, inaction or stalling.
The opposition APNU/AFC has condemned efforts by the government to amend the rules of the National Assembly and move a motion to remove David Patterson as chair of the Public Accounts Committee, arguing that during the last administration led by David Granger, the PAC Chairman was Irfaan Ali who until election as president, had been facing 19 fraud charges.
The APNU+AFC-led administration had never removed him because conventionally the opposition chairs that committee, the opposition argues.
“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 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.
It is understood that the Irfaan Ali regime may be setting the stage for an amendment of the Standing Orders, to allow for the appointment of a PAC Chairman from any opposition party, thus clearing the way for the appointment of Lennox Shuman.