Sep 18, 2016 News
…now saddled with large inventory
As state auditors continue their probe of a questionable $100M purchase of high frequency (HF) radios for last year’s General and Regional Elections, there are concerns over another set of questionable transactions.
From financial records, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) paid over $92M last year for toners- used for photocopiers and printers.
No big deal with that except it seemed that GECOM ordered far more than it needed. It has now been left with a huge stock on hand. As a matter of fact, reportedly there is an entire roomful of it at the Coldingen, East Coast Demerara bond.
The contracts for the toners were handed to M-Tech Business Solutions, which is owned by Water Street businessman, Michael Brasse.
Brasse’s other business, Mobile Authority, is the same one that that supplied the 50 radios that cost $100M.
The purchase last year by GECOM is a major scandal that is now being investigated by the Audit Office of Guyana.
The purchase of the toners has several stationery suppliers upset with many of them saying they did not even know GECOM wanted them.
What would make matters worse for GECOM is the fact that M-Tech reportedly received orders for toners for different printers and photocopiers.
It is normal for most companies to go directly to local suppliers. For example, in Guyana, the local agent for Canon copiers and printers is Laparkan. GECOM has several Canon copiers and printers.
It also has equipment from Brother, Xerox and reportedly from Hewlett-Packard (HP). Yet there is little evidence that other local agents were approached.
As a matter of fact, payment records for contracts of toner suppliers indicated that GECOM paid over $92.2M last year to M-Tech.
Laparkan received just $1.35M while another business, Andrews Enterprise, received $4.96M for supplying toners last year.
These latest revelations would follow that of the radio deal last year with Brasse.
Just over a week before the May 11, 2015 elections, 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 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 last week.
“Logistically, it would have been impossible to make in time for Elections Day.”
That $100M contract was awarded under questionable circumstances to Mobile Authority.
Brasse’s Mobile Authority and his 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 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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