Ministerial Gift Giving

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News that former ministers David Patterson and Annette Ferguson were recipients of gifts from the different agencies under their ministerial portfolios are generating conversations and rightly so. Guyana is yet to have clearly defined and enforceable law and policy on president, ministers of government and parliamentarians receiving gifts from state agencies or private business.

Mr. Patterson in a statement yesterday said the practice is not new and he is unaware that being the recipients of those gifts violate procurement procedures. He also claimed that ministers of the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change Coalition Government and the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) governments have been the recipients of gifts. Whether this is true or not true a policy needs to be developed and the Coalition Opposition should push for it.

The fact that Mr. Patterson took a while before responding to the story which has been generating debates for days is not good enough. Information in Guyana spreads like wildfire and Guyanese at times are not too concerned about the truth but political upmanship, resulting often in the truth getting lost.

It cannot be denied the revelation has cast a shadow on the named former ministers and with them taking so long to respond the impression has been given they had something to hide. Both though relatively young politicians should never ever lose sight of this. Minister Juan Edghill is calling for Mr. Patterson’s resignation from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). This committee oversees government’s spending and so far, Mr. Patterson, as its head, has been doing a fantastic job.
He is presently overseeing government spending from 2016 when the PPP/C was in opposition and Mr. Irfaan Ali, now President, was head of the Committee. Where the PPP/C failed to do their work and Mr. Patterson must do for the period when his party was in office heralds well for accountability.

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Notably, when the PAC under Mr. Patterson as chair started questioning the spending by the military it made the PPP/C government uncomfortable. Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips, who is presently Prime Minister, was Chief of Staff and the Guyana Defence Force under his control.  The millions of dollars in discrepancies in spending by the Army to repair vehicles was in the financial year Mr. Philipps was in charge. Less than two weeks ago when the PAC was conducting questioning into those discrepancies the PPP/C parliamentarians created a raucous and adjourned the meeting.

The government demand, which almost mirrors a campaign, for Mr. Patterson to step down as head of the PAC given the foregoing rings hallow and pretentious. If Mr. Patterson is to step down as head of the PAC based on being recipients of taxpayers’ funded gifts, then Minister Pauline Sukhai must step down for receiving millions of taxpayers’ dollars for dental work (teeth) and Attorney General Anil Nandlall for millions of taxpayers’ dollars for fertility treatment. The list taxpayers’ gift giving goes on and on during the PPP/C administration.

Evidently the PPP/C were largess of gifts from the taxpayers. This situation stinks and something should be done about it. It is either right or wrong, not right or wrong depending on who is the beneficiary and under which government. A new day and practice must dawn on political and public officials receiving gifts from state institutions and private companies. The Coalition Opposition should agitate for the change.



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