Opposition MPs block debate to remove Patterson as PAC Chairman
A motion brought by government Parliamentarian, Gail Teixeira before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to remove Opposition Parliamentarian, David Patterson as its Chairman, has failed.
This is as a result of the opposition’s refusal to entertain the motion despite advice from the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, that the motion was proper, should be debated and voted on.
When a meeting of the PAC convened in the Parliament Chambers on Monday, Teixeira introduced the motion since Patterson did not heed calls for his resignation over a well-publicized gift-buying scandal during his tenure as Minister of Public Infrastructure under the APNU+AFC Coalition.
The other three opposition MPs on the nine-member committee, where the government has a majority, rejected the motion and questioned its admissibility, arguing that under Standing Order #30, notice needed to be given before the motion is laid.
After more than an hour of debate that excluded members of the media, the Clerk of the National Assembly had to be called in to offer advice.
Mr. Isaacs informed the committee that he had done research on the issue and that the motion was proper and should be entertained.
It was at this point that Patterson had to recuse himself from presiding over the meeting to allow for a full debate and vote on the motion.
However, the Standing Orders stipulate that the committee must be chaired by a member of the Opposition and when called upon, all three opposition MPs – Jermaine Figueira, Juretha Fernandes, and Ganesh Mahipaul – refused to chair the meeting.
Teixeira said if they continue along this line then the work of the committee is stalled until the Committee of Selection intervenes.
“If the opposition continues on their position that none of them will take the chair, then obviously, the committee of selection will have to go back and raise the issue… at the last Committee of Selection meeting last week, the opposition changed a number of its members on committees, and we did too. So this is not written and guaranteed that whoever’s there has to stay forever,” she said.
Meanwhile, Government Parliamentarian and member of the PAC, Juan Edghill explained that the government was not looking to remove Patterson from the PAC but simply to have him not preside over the scrutiny of government spending when he is involved in a gift-buying scandal.
Edghill said the opposition’s stance on the issue will result in stalling the work of the committee.
“To watch this shameless kind of display in the committee this morning was unbelievable and this must be renounced in the strongest possible terms. It’s a simple matter. There are international norms and conventions. Mr. Patterson should not have even presided over the debate,” Edghill added.
Patterson did not speak to the media on the matter but his opposition colleagues said they have full confidence in him and insisted that the motion was improper, although the Clerk advised otherwise.