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….Patterson elected chairman
By Svetlana Marshall
After months of “protestation,” the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir finally convened the first meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday paving the way for a chairman to be elected.
As anticipated, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament David Patterson was elected chairman when the elections were held on Monday afternoon at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance and Government Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira; Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan; Dharamkumar Seeraj and Dr Vishwa Mahadeo were the Government Members of Parliament elected to sit on the Committee.
In addition to Patterson, who sits at the helm, the other Opposition Members of Parliament forming part of the Committee are Juretha Fernandes, Ganesh Mahipaul, and Jermaine Figueira.
Patterson, who had continuously lobbied for the PAC to be established, had indicated ahead of his appointment that the Committee, once in operation, will request that the Audit Office of Guyana launch thorough investigations into the purchase of 44 tractors by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) at the cost of $1.2B; and the distribution of $25,000 COVID-19 relief cash grant.
The PAC, he said, would request that a ‘Value for Money’ Audit be done into the purchase of the tractors. The tractors are being single sourced from a company in the USA.
Pointing to the fact that the multimillion tractors are being purchased at a time when the sugar corporation is strapped for cash, Patterson said it is important to ensure that GuySuCo, get value for money.
“We want to know what experience GuySuCo has in maintaining and operating tractors such as these,” he said during a recent press conference.
He reminded that in past, GuySuCo had purchased a number of tractors from India, only to realize, on their arrival, that they could not have worked effectively in the fields.
Further, its Patterson’s intention to have the Audit Office conduct an “Operation Audit” on the distribution of the $25,000 COVID-19 relief cash grant.
In announcing the budgetary measures in September, 2020, President Irfaan Ali had assured that each household will receive a $25,000 cash grant to cushion the impact of the pandemic but Patterson said the Opposition has been inundated with complaints that communities that are known to be in support of the APNU+AFC have been bypassed.
He said while the Auditor General’s 2020 Report, due September 2021, will address the financial aspect of the distribution exercise, the “operation audit” will determine whether or not the grants are being fairly and equitably distributed across the country.
During the 11th Parliament, the PAC, under the chairmanship of Irfaan Ali – the now President, met 44 times in five years out of a possible 202 meeting days.
The last meeting was August 6, 2018 – more than 18 months ago. As such, the PAC only examined up to 2016 accounts. It therefore means, the Patterson-led Committee will now have to examine accounts for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.