A New and United Guyana (ANUG) has posited that if a member of the then opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – was on the board of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company (DHBC), that official would have blown the whistle on the gifting fiasco.
The lack of a PPP/C representative, ANUG believes, is a hurdle to ensuring transparency at the company, or any other State corporation. The party is therefore calling on the Irfaan Ali-led administration to ensure that Opposition representatives are given a seat at all State boards.
See full statement below:
During the past months, evidence has been emerging of several instances of improper transactions between senior government officials of the previous regime and the State enterprises which they control where assets are given to the officials as gifts or at grossly undervalued ‘sales’ which inure to the unlawful and improper benefit of the government officials. The latest scandal of gift giving to emerge seems to involve the Ministry of Public Works (Ministry of Public Infrastructure between 2015-2020) and the agencies which fall under it, namely the Maritime Administration Department and the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation.
Initially, the former subject Minister, David Patterson, whom it was alleged had improperly received ‘gifts’ of jewelry, denied any knowledge of these gifts. He is even reported to have said that he does not wear jewelry. He has now admitted that he did receive such ‘gifts’. Brazenly, he asserted that he was not aware that his acceptance of such ‘gifts’ breached any regulations, and that he had not asked that the ‘gifts’ be bought for him.
Ironically, Mr. Patterson is Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Parliament. This Parliamentary Committee has the role of scrutinizing public spending and public accounts. Conceivably, this is the Committee which would scrutinize and police the giving of ‘gifts’ and below-value sale of assets of State property to officials in circumstances of abuse and conflict of interest.
Mr. Patterson is resisting calls for him to step down as Chairman of the PAC. A New and United Guyana (ANUG) notes these developments and, repeats our message that for there to be change from the continued misuse and disregard for public and public funds there must be transparency. As long as public agencies are populated by managers and directors handpicked by the political party in power, there is no transparency and the opportunity for graft continues.
Such ‘gifts’ did not start with Mr. Patterson and probably will not end with him. But it would not have been possible if an Opposition representative had sat on the Board of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation. That representative would have blown the whistle. With the change in Government, there is a change of personnel, but the system is the same. ANUG calls on the Government to appoint to the board of each State corporation and agency a nominee of an Opposition Party. This will be a start to transparency. ANUG urges the police to
enforce the law to its fullest extent where acts of illegality are found. ANUG calls on Mr. Patterson to step down from the post of Chair of the PAC.
It is time that Guyanese insist on systems of Governance which ensure transparency to hold public officers and Ministers on both sides of the political divide accountable for their actions.