Motion to remove Patterson as PAC Chairman for Nat’l Assembly on Monday

A motion for the National Assembly to approve the removal of APNU+AFC Member of Parliament Hon. David Patterson, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), is expected to be debated in the House on Monday.

The motion, piloted by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira states that Mr. Patterson “has consistently and openly violated the Standing Orders and has introduced a level of bullyism unbefitting of a Member of Parliament, and, in doing so, bringing the image of the National Assembly into disrepute.”

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira

It added: “That as a result of Mr. David Patterson’s conduct as Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee with respect to his open violation of the Standing Orders, among other things, in particular since February 1, the majority of the members of the Public Accounts Committee have lost confidence in him as the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.”

On Sunday, Minister Teixeira, a member of the PAC, told DPI that the removal of chairpersons of parliamentary standing committees, though rare, does happen.

“The whole view that this is something that the PPP, and me as the minister, is doing something wrong and that this doesn’t happen in parliaments is untrue. There are instances in the various parliaments over the decades of chairpersons of parliamentary committees being removed based on, in many cases, what are … allegations or criticisms to do with impropriety and matters connected with what may be considered corruption.”

Mr. Patterson was nominated and declared chair when the PAC met on December 28 last. However, at its sixth meeting on February 1, the examination of the 2016 Auditor General’s Report revealed several concerning expenditures from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, which Mr. Patterson had led during the period under review.

A motion was first moved by Minister Teixeira urging him to step down as Chairperson. Following his refusal to do so, another was introduced calling for his resignation as chair while remaining a committee member. The intention was that another opposition member of the PAC be the Chairperson instead. 

“From there a whole series of events occurred including various subterfuges by the Chairman to prevent the motion being put to the vote; in which also Clerk (of the National Assembly) was called in several times to advise, and during which a legal opinion was given, and which the Speaker of the House wrote a letter to Mr. Patterson on May 4th instructing him to put the motion to the vote in keeping with the Standing Orders.”

So, this is not a thing that happened yesterday; this is a series of events from February 1st right up to now in which the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has refused to comply with the instructions and advice of both the Speaker and the Clerk.”   

Minister Teixeira, one of the longest-serving MPs, said the experience has been “mindboggling.”

“I have never seen a situation where a chairperson or a Member of Parliament refuses to obey an instruction of the Speaker and violate the Standing Orders massively and still continues to remain there.”  

The minister noted the actions have meant that meetings of the PAC have not been convened, thereby blocking scrutiny of the Auditor General’s reports for the years 2016 to 2019, years the Coalition was in office. It is this standstill that has led to the motion before the House as a last resort.

The motion had been set for debate at last Thursday’s meeting but never came up after protracted presentations from opposition MPs on another motion that Mr. Patterson had brought before the House. Minister Teixeira said she expects the Opposition to try the same tactic on Monday.

“We’re not going to be intimidated by that. I expect the motion will come up to remove Patterson, and it will be debated until it’s finished, and if that takes us to 12, 1 o’clock in the morning, then so be it.”

The minister explained that once that motion is passed, it bars Patterson from serving as the PAC chairman ever again without further intervention from the House.

“I hear rumblings from the Opposition that even if the motion passes, they are going to try and elect him for every sitting (of the PAC). I wish just to inform the public that a Resolution of the House, in this case, the removal of Patterson as Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, means he can never be Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee unless the Resolution is amended in the future or rescinded by a motion in the House.” 

The motion requires a simple majority to pass. The PPP/C holds 33 seats in the National Assembly, the APNU+AFC coalition 31, and the joinder list of small parties one seat.

“If I were Mr. Patterson, or if I were any Member of Parliament that was in the position that the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee was in, I would resign just in order to retain some sense of dignity and integrity. That whole concept of dignity and integrity has eluded Mr. Patterson in this whole period between February 1st and now,” Minister Teixeira stated.