Even though Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson recently explained that the transfer of US$9,000 to his bank account was reimbursement for an event he attended in China nearly three years ago, there still remains a few more unanswered questions says Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
At his weekly press conference, the PPP General Secretary recalled that the news of the transfer came to the fore about two weeks ago on Facebook. It is the perception in some quarters that the payment could be China’s way of garnering favour for its controversial Belt and Road Initiative. While the event was jointly organised by the China International Contractors Association and Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, it was fully endorsed by China’s Ministry of Commerce and Macao Special Administrative Region Government and focused on the “One Belt, One Road” government initiative.
Patterson subsequently turned to this Facebook page and explained that, in April 2016 via the Chinese Embassy in Guyana, an invitation was extended to him to attend and make a presentation at the 7th International Investment and Construction Forum in Macao, China. The event was held on June 2 and 3, 2016. Patterson said that the organisers committed to reimburse travel-related expenses up to US$10,000. The minister said that the advance for the trip, which received Cabinet’s blessings, was paid by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD). Patterson noted that more than 10 months later the reimbursement was made.
But Jagdeo says that Patterson’s explanation still has a few inconsistencies. He said that if MARAD gave the advance, why not use the account number of the said agency to allow for the transfer? He said too that if Cabinet approved the trip, an explanation needs to be given to say why the money was not paid out from the national treasury.
In the meantime, Auditor General Deodat Sharma has said that a probe will be launched to ascertain the arrangements that led to the US$9,000 being transferred to Patterson’s account.