Housing Minister reassigned in “public’s interest” – President

first_imgPresident David GrangerMinisterValerie Patterson-YearwoodPresident David Granger on Thursday said Minister Valerie Patterson-Yearwood was stripped of her responsibility of the housing sector as a result of the revelation that her husband received contracts from the Government to build houses.Addressing the issue on Thursday, the Head of State pointed out that her relocation to another Ministry was done in the public’s interest.“There were certain allegations and I felt that it will be in the public’s interest for her to go to another Ministry. She has not been convicted of any crime and I feel that her services could be used in supporting the Minister of Agriculture with responsibility for rural affairs,” he noted.According to the Head of State, he met with the Junior Minister and he was satisfied with her clarifications of the allegations of ‘conflict of interest’ against her.“At this point, I am satisfied that she has not committed any criminal offence, that she is a fit and proper person to continue to serve in the Department of Rural Affairs in the Ministry of Agriculture,” the President told reporters on the sidelines of a swearing in ceremony for the newly appointed Ministers on Thursday.The former Housing Minister within the Communities Ministry came under scrutiny last month after it was revealed that her husband, Godfrey Yearwood, was awarded a contract to build homes for a project spearheaded by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), an agency which fell under her then Ministry.As such, the President in reshuffling his Cabinet as a result of the recent resignation of four senior Ministers reassigned Minister Patterson-Yearwood to the Agriculture Ministry as Minister with responsibility for Rural Affairs.Last week, Minister Patterson-Yearwood said she does not view her reassignment as a demotion but a promotion instead. In fact, she made it a point to note that there was no changes to her remunerations.“What is a demotion? My salary is not affected, my allowances (or) anything are not affected. Nothing is affected so why would it be a demotion? I see it as a promotion because I’m going into new and exciting areas,” Minister Patterson-Yearwood told reporters on Friday last.However even as the Minister denied that her reassignment had nothing to do with the issue involving her husband, local transparency watchdog, Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI) had said in a statement last week that it supports calls for the multimillion-dollar contract to be reviewed.This issue came to the limelight earlier this month when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo disclosed that the Minister’s husband had sub-contracted the project to a contractor from Victoria (East Coast Demerara), who claims that he is yet to be paid for the works done more than a year ago.According to TIGI, this situation is particularly pernicious since it comes at a time when Guyanese workers are struggling for fair treatment.“We are learning that a local company – even one connected to a Minister of Government – is failing to pay its workers… This is another issue that causes us to wonder whether the persons who end up as our leaders appreciate the vast responsibility placed upon them to ensure the interests of our society as a whole are properly safe-guarded,” the missive added.Jagdeo had disclosed at a press conference earlier this month that the construction worker went to him after he had exhausted efforts to collect his payments from the Minister’s husband. According to the Opposition Leader, the man had written President Granger four times over the past year for the Head of State’s intervention but only got acknowledgement responses so far.Chief Executive Officer of the CH&PA, Lelon Saul, had revealed that he was aware of this issue of non-payment. “A complaint was lodged at the Ministry, I think it was sometime last year, and we would have called in both parties and we advised them to settle the issue,” Saul told reporters earlier this month.Furthermore, the CH&PA Head had also noted that the award of the contract to the Minister’s husband for works under a Ministry she was heading, was a clear conflict of interest even if the contract was awarded through a competitive bidding process.“If the contractor in question is the spouse of the Minister, certainly it would be a conflict of interest,” he posited.To this end, the CH&PA head called for a review of the awarding process so that there is no reoccurrence of such a situation. “The award of contract is above my level. But I think the (CH&PA) Board should review that (awarding process) based on recommendations coming from the agency,” Saul asserted.It was noted that while the contract was a one-off award, the project is still ongoing.last_img

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