Sep 23, 2016 News
As the details concerning the controversial purchase of radio sets, pliers and office supplies by the Guyana
Elections Commission continue to unravel, the People’s Progressive Party Civic commissioners have made it clear that the issues never came up at any statutory meeting during their tenure.
This was disclosed during a special press conference held yesterday by the three PPP/C commissioners, Robeson Benn, Bibi Shadick and Sase Gunraj at party headquarters. Shadick and Gunraj are lawyers. The purpose of the forum was to address several matters presently attracting public scrutiny at GECOM.
Asked to clarify whether they had any oversight on the procurement of the radio sets for the May 2015 elections, Gunraj said that he has been a commissioner since February 3, 2015 and at no time was there a discussion on the procurement of radios for the May 2015 elections at the level of the Commission.
“I have never been absent from any meeting so it cannot be said that I missed that discussion. At not one single meeting was any discussion raised in relation to the procurement, use or any other matter whatsoever touching and concerning the radios.” Gunraj said that he was also present at all special meetings.
The commissioner said that even when the issue of communication was tangentially dealt with at Commission meetings, prior to the May 2015 elections, the matter was still not raised.
He said, “It did not even become apparent to me, sitting on that commission, that we had procured radios, that radios were intended for use, or any such thing, there was no report whatsoever.”
Gunraj raised the issue that the secretariat has not submitted a report on the 2015 General and Regional Elections or the 2016 Local Government Elections to the commission.
“I can say this without fear of contradiction that from the third of February 2015 to date the commission has not received from the secretariat a report on the 2015 elections nor the 2016 local government elections, another issue which we have raised almost at nausea.”
Gunraj also said that the recent revelation about the purchase of $14M worth of pliers was not raised in any meeting of the commission.
Addressing the issue too, was Commissioner Shadick. She said that prior to the 2016 budget GECOM was not a self-financing entity. It was a schedule three agency – which is a Constitutional entity empowered to take care of its own budget and therefore approve its expenditure.
She said, “Now, the commission has to give approval to spend. Prior to that, approval
was given outside of the commission because it was an agency that took money from the regular budget. I think much of that approval was given by the Head of the Presidential Secretariat.”
Shadick said that since the Chairmanship of the commission is a full time position, then supervision had to be led by the chairman so that when the commission meets, he can update the six other members of the board.
According to her, when she contacted Dr Surujbally on the many issues being revealed by the current investigation at GECOM, he reportedly told her that he tried to insulate himself and the commission from such matters, inclusive of procurement.
Shadick said that she found Surujbally’s response appalling since the constitution empowers GECOM to ensure the smooth running of the secretariat.
The Commissioners also raised the issue about the presence of Dr. Surujbally and Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield in their offices despite being on leave. According to the commissioners, the behaviour of the duo is reason for concern since there is an on-going investigation by state auditors into the entity’s operations.
Commissioner Benn said that there is a perception that there is on-going corruption in procurement at GECOM.
He said, “The rot starts at the top, and that is where the problem is, and I don’t think that if there is a proper investigation conducted that there will be any room to hide for those who are involved in the various procurements and the on-going allowance at various levels of that commission.”
The radios in question were procured by GECOM from Mobile Authority, a company owned by Water Street businessman Michael Brasse at a cost of $100M. Brasse also owns two separate companies, Mibra Trading and M-Tech Business Solutions which were contracted to supply a variety of products to the commission.
The contracts have attracted the attention of authorities due to the procurement practices utilized, even being described as “sole sourcing in disguise.”
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