Nat’l Assembly passes motion to remove Patterson as PAC Chairman
The National Assembly in the early hours of Tuesday passed a motion to remove the former APNU+AFC Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr. David Patterson as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The motion was tabled by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira. In her contribution, the Minister recalled that Mr. Patterson was nominated and declared PAC Chairperson on December 28, 2020.
During the sixth meeting of the committee on February 1, 2021, following the exposure of findings of the Auditor General’s Report of 2016, Minister Teixeira had moved a motion calling for Mr. Patterson to resign as the PAC Chairman. Cognizant of those findings, Minister Teixeira said it was “inappropriate” for Patterson to continue as the Chairman.
But despite numerous instances of guidance from Mr. Sherlock Issacs, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Patterson refused to resign from the Committee. To compound matters, he had refused to allow the motion to be put to the vote and PAC meetings were cancelled as a result of the ensuing stalemate.
Minister Teixeira explained, “Mr. Speaker, worse yet, having not been satisfied that he hadn’t put the motion and we had to put another motion on the agenda, the Chairperson deliberately refused to deal with the motion and went to all the other issues, even though we kept trying for the motion to be put to the vote.”
A subsequent motion by Minister Teixeira for Mr. Patterson’s removal as Chairperson was asterisked by him meaning it was not to be dealt with.
Minister Teixeira noted that Mr. Patterson was advised by both the Clerk and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Manzoor Nadir, that he did not possess the authority to asterisk a motion. In a letter to Mr. Patterson, the Speaker had also indicated to him that his actions were a “gross violation of the Standing Orders and tantamount to bullyism”.
“I have been around a while and I have never seen this behavior in any committee in any legislative assembly that I have been a part of over the years. I find this upsetting,” Minister Teixeira told the House.
She went on to say, “From February 1 through the months of March, April and May, I saw no movement from the member, no acknowledgement, no attempt to call the meeting of the Committee to put the motion on the table. I felt as though it was a hopeless cause… I want people to understand that it is not with delight that I bring this motion.”
During the debate on the motion before the House Opposition MP, Hon. Khemraj Ramjattan argued that since Mr. Patterson is before the courts in connection with a $160 million fraud charge, the proposed motion would be sub judice.
However, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall noted that the Parliament has the authority to regulate its own procedures and business. He further indicated that since the motion made no mention of the charges that are before the court, there was nothing stopping the Assembly from moving forward with it.
The motion was passed after contributions from more than a dozen Government and opposition MPs.