Sep 27, 2016 News
As the controversy at the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) continues over the questionable procurement of several items prior to the hosting of the May 2015 General Elections, it has now begun to trickle down and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) continues to distance itself.
Clement Rohee, the General Secretary (GS) of the PPP/C was yesterday asked about the party’s involvement in procuring the items since it was learnt that GECOM would lean towards the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and Cabinet for the awarding and granting ‘no objection’ of items over a certain price.
Rohee in turn, stated that if the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of GECOM, Keith Lowenfield, is looking for what he would describe as a ‘get out jail card’, then he needs to await the outcome of the audit.
The Parliamentarian would not offer any further comments on the issue. What he told media operatives was that he would prefer to stay clear of the issue and leave it in the hands of the auditors.
Rohee said that when the auditors present their reports then there will be a more “authoritative pronouncement.” This report, he added, will have to be made public.
The former Home Affairs Minister did say that the opposition wishes to reinforce its position that Lowenfield’s contract should not be renewed.
The probe into the procurement of items was launched by State Auditors since it was revealed that $100M worth in radio equipment was purchased for Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) shortly before the May 11 polls last year.
But as the probe continues to rotate, the controversy is beginning to expand.
Previous reports would have revealed that the communication equipment was from all
indications never used by GECOM, with some of the high frequency sets not functioning. Many of the 50 radios are still in boxes, raising questions as to the reasons used for the purchase.
GECOM reportedly wanted the radios to make contact with its workers in outlying areas on Elections Day. Auditors are also investigating whether GECOM paid too much, as well as try to determine whether the proper procurement procedures were followed.
The multimillion-dollar purchase would lift the lid on the procurement practices of GECOM, the body that runs General and Regional Elections in the country.
An amendment was made to the legislation allowing the Commission to manage its own budget, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars every year – a reason for the intense scrutiny.
Mobile Authority was the company that was chosen for the supply of what was supposed to be 50 Barrett HF radios. The company was paid $99.5M.
However, checks by the auditors a few weeks ago, found a number of problems. Government officials indicated that based on information, GECOM collected 30 ICOM (IC-718) radios and 20 of what were described as Barrett 2040 radios.
Government officials said what is interesting is why GECOM decided to include another brand in the order –the 30 units of ICOM (IC-718) radios without the suppliers being notified.
Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party Civic commissioners have made it clear that the issues never came up at any statutory meeting during their tenure.
Asked to clarify whether they had any oversight on the procurement of the radio sets for the May 2015 elections, one Commissioner, Sase 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.
But radios were not the only purchase that raised eyebrows; More than two weeks before the General Elections, $15M was spent on nippers and pliers.
Some $6000 was spent for pliers worth $600 – this revelation had some taxpayers shaking their heads.
The contract was awarded to a business called Standard Distributors, which has operations on King Street, Lacytown. The company is owned by Mahendra Brasse, the brother of Michael Brasse, the same businessman who got the contract for the supply of the radios. This revelation has observers questioning whether it was a ‘family racket’.
Toners for printers and photocopiers; and Duracell batteries were also some of the items purchased for GECOM.
With respect to batteries, they were supposed to be used in lamps on Elections Day, in the case of power outages or in far-flung polling stations that are without electricity. Each lamp reportedly uses four batteries.
According GECOM’s polling days staffers, as part of its kit for Elections Day, each station is given two lamps.
According to official figures of contracts awarded last year, there were two payments for Duracell batteries by GECOM. One contract was awarded on April 23, 2015, about three weeks before the elections for $14,529,000. This contract was awarded – yet again, to Mobile Authority.
There was another contract awarded to the same entity for $9,180,518 on May 21, 2015, making it a total of $23,709,518 paid for Duracell batteries last year. The elections were already over when the second purchase was made.
GECOM paid $23,709,518 or about $17.7M more, or $1,185 apiece for a battery worth $300. Why did the commission enter into a contract for the provision of batteries after the elections? – That is one of the question on the lips of taxpayers.
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