…Logistically impossible for GECOM to train personnel, install, use equipment in time
There are disclosures now that just over a week before May 11, 2015 the then administration of the
People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) approved $99.5M for the purchase of 50 high frequency (HF) radios.
Those radios were supposed to be used by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for communications in the outlying areas on polling day and after. However, there are indications that the radios were never put into use.
From documents seen by Kaieteur News, local suppliers were asked to submit quotes in mid-April 2015. Cabinet granted the no-objection to the award of the contract that same month, April, leaving GECOM just days to have the supplier order and import the radios.
GECOM insiders and Government officials insisted, yesterday, that based on past experience and other factors, it would have been nigh impossible for the radios to have been delivered by the supplier; checked to ensure that they are operational and then delivered to the outlying areas in time for use on Elections Day, May 11, 2015.
What makes observers and others more convinced that the whole deal was a clear plot to dump old radios, that had been brought years before, was the fact the equipment needed installation in the hinterland areas.
“These radios need a base station, cables, pipes, a power supply and then technicians to install them. How possible is it to order them, have them delivered in the country, clear Customs, delivered and checked by GECOM and then deployed?” a Government official familiar with the situation asked yesterday.
What would make the orders of those radios more scandalous is the fact that GECOM would have needed to train its personnel to use them.
“Logistically, it would have been impossible to make in time for Elections Day.”
That $100M order is now the subject of an investigation by the Audit Office which decided to make
checks a few weeks ago.
What was found has raised suspicions and has brought the spotlight down on GECOM, the body tasked with overseeing elections in Guyana.
That $100M contract was awarded under questionable circumstances to Mobile Authority, an entity owned by Water Street businessman, Michael Brasse.
Brasse’s Mobile and two other businesses, M-Tech Business Solutions and Mibra Trading, were awarded almost $290M in contracts last year. He supplied toners, stationery, office equipment, electrical items, Duracell batteries and even furniture, raising suspicions of sole sourcing.
From payment records, it appeared that several of the payments could be linked to what is known as contract splitting, an arrangements where contracts are deliberately kept below a certain amount to avoid attracting attention from oversight bodies like the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
Another strange thing that is being investigated by auditors is the fact that GECOM apparently collected two different brands of radios- 30 of the ICOM 718 models and 20 of the older Barrett radios.
GECOM appeared to have asked suppliers in mid April for quotes of newer Barrett ManPack radios which have the capabilities of sending faxes, going online and making voice calls.
Instead, GECOM collected something else.
The reports of the radio purchases have drawn the attention of Barrett Communications, the manufacturer of some of the radios that had been delivered.
Through its European office, Barrett in a statement to the newspaper, said that it is disappointed by the negative news and that it never delivered radios for the 2015 elections in Guyana.
Rather, several of its radios that were seen in photos published by Kaieteur News were from a purchase made since 2006.
According to Barrett, it stopped manufacturing those radios since 2009.
That raises questions of the warranties GECOM was offered by Mobile Authority.
Barrett also claimed that through its local partner, Advanced Office Systems Inc., it tendered for the contract last year but the order was inexplicably cancelled.
The company complained it learned that a “non-compliant” company (Mobile Authority) was instead chosen.
GECOM had declined to comment on the radio purchases, saying that an investigation is currently ongoing by state auditors.
Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, had made it clear that while the Commission would in principle agree to purchases and other transactions, the actual transactions are left to GECOM’s Secretariat.
GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, who is responsible for the day to day running of the secretariat, has also remained silent.
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