The Alliance for Change (AFC) has expressed confidence in its Member, David Patterson, despite revelations that he received gifts and other items amounting to over $2.6M from agencies under his stewardship during his five -year stint as Public Infrastructure Minister.
Patterson found himself in hot water earlier this week when a document surfaced showing that he received gold jewelry to the tune of over $500,000 from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company days before his birthday.
The former minister has acknowledged receipt of the items, but claims that he played no part in procuring same. He said that he “assumed” nothing illegal was done, and that ministers receiving gifts was nothing new.
His successor, Juan Edghill, however, later revealed that Patterson would have benefited from more gifts during his tenure as minister. Also, Edghill claims that a bed, mattress and other items were procured for Patterson. The Minister told the media that Patterson would have received over $2.6M in items purchased from taxpayers’ dollars.
The AFC Member in response, said that Edghill was trying to humiliate him by portraying to the citizenry that he (Patterson) was “hand to mouth” before becoming a minister in 2015.
Edghill has since called for Patterson to step down as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – a parliamentary body comprising of ministers and opposition members that scrutinises government’s handling of the nation’s purse.
But the AFC has taken umbrage to that call; saying that these allegations made by Edghill are not coincidental, but a ploy to have Patterson removed.
“We further assert that the aspersions cast by PPP operatives are nothing more than a plan, concocted and designed by the PPP Administration to remove Mr. Patterson as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.”
The party said that it has every confidence in Patterson, while pointing out that it is the Permanent Secretaries who are responsible for managing the finances of ministries, not ministers.
It noted that the “larger issue might be that a complete re-examination of gifting with a view to establishing clearer policy guidelines on the issue of Ministerial gifts from Ministries, Agencies and Departments is needed to be done by the government.”
The AFC said this is required to ensure accountability and transparency.