President confirms Housing Minister reassigned over contract awarded to husband

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By Bibi Khatoon

President David Granger on Thursday confirmed that former Minister with responsibility for Housing, Valerie Patterson-Yearwood was reassigned over recent conflict of interest allegations.

“There were certain allegations and I felt that it will be in the public interest for her to go to another Ministry,” the President told the media on the sidelines of a swearing ceremony for new Ministers at the Ministry of the Presidency.

It was disclosed a month ago that the Minister’s husband, Godfrey Yearwood, was awarded a contract by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) to build houses for the Ministry under a special housing programme.

The Minister had direct oversight over the CH&PA which is also located at the Minister’s former Brickdam, Georgetown office.

Further questioned about the decision to reassign the Minister as opposed to removing her from Government, the President said meetings have since been held with the Minister and “at this point, I am satisfied that she has not committed any criminal offence.”

“She has not been convicted of any crime and I feel that her services would be used supporting the Minister of agriculture with responsibility for rural affairs… she is a fit and proper person to continue to serve in the Department of Rural Affairs in the Ministry of Agriculture,” the Head of State added.

The Minister, when questioned by the media on the allegations of possible corruption, suggested that she does not intervene in the work of the CH&PA Board or influence its decisions.

While Patterson-Yearwood said she is aware that her husband has the contract, she denied knowing whether her husband was granted contracts after the two got married on August 16, 2017.

However, the Transparency Institute of Guyana International (TIGI) recently pointed out that that is of no importance since there is no way to ascertain that they were not in a relationship at the time.

Patterson-Yearwood was not present to be issued with her new instrument of appointment on Thursday where the other Ministers who were appointed and reassigned received theirs.

Questioned about her new appointment at the last sitting of the National Assembly, the Minister denied that her transfer had anything to do with the scandal over her husband’s housing contract.

She also denied that her transfer suggested a demotion.

“My salary is not affected, my allowances…nothing is affected,” she said.

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