The Audit Office of Guyana is prepared to officially ask the police to investigate an alleged, major fraud at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in 2015, involving the purchase of communications radios.
The radios, according to state auditors, were never deployed despite the emergency reasons advanced by the entity.
General elections were held in May 2015 following a prorogation of the National Assembly.
GECOM’s Secretariat, which is tasked with overseeing general and local government elections, is being accused of deliberately overseeing a system of procurement frauds involving hundreds of millions of dollars in purchases– from radios, to pliers and batteries, to toners.
The majority of the contracts went to two brothers and their companies. There were little or no evidence that established procurement systems were followed.
On Monday, the forensic audit report into the $100M purchase of the radios was handed over to Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, who is also the accounting officer that has reporting responsibilities for spending to the National Assembly.
A number of other forensic audits will be conducted by the state auditors into GECOM’s purchases.
GECOM is disagreeing with the recommendations of the Audit Office that the police should be called in.
Yesterday, while handing over the 2016 Auditor General report on public finances to House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland; Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, said that he is prepared to use the powers of his office if the Commissioners failed to act on the recommendations.
Under the Audit laws of Guyana, Sharma is empowered to hand over any findings he has, directly to the police for further investigations.
In this case, the report was given to Lowenfield for the Commission to consider.
Questioned if he would invoke his powers under the law if GECOM fails to call in the police, it was a definitive yes from the Auditor General.
The state auditors in the forensic audit report recommended the police be called in and criminal charges instituted if necessary.
Less than 90 percent
The report found that less than 90 percent of the radios were used. This is in contention now as persons at GECOM and others insisted that the radios arrived too late to be deployed for the May 11, 2015 elections.
The radios were purchased from Mobile Authority, owned by Water Street businessman, Michael Brasse.
The report found that on top of that purchase for the radios which were all outdated, GECOM went ahead and bought 12 satellite phones for use in case those communication radios could not be put into operation because of security threats or reasons.
In fact, the purchase of those Barrett radios were not needed even in 2016, when local government elections were held, the radios were not used.
Checks on the radios found that six of the 50 radio sets were not working.
GECOM defended itself for not going to tender by saying that it had little time before the May 11, 2015 elections.
While Mobile Authority quoted for other brands of radios, it was selected over another bidder, Advance Officer Systems, which met the criteria.
In the three quotes for the radios, one was from Massy Technology dated a year earlier.
The Audit Office found GECOM breached procurement regulations when they went ahead and evaluated the quotes for the radios without first seeking the approval of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). This was done after.
In fact, the audit report found that GECOM signed the contract for the radios six days before the elections, making it impossible for the radios to be sourced, delivered, installed in remote locations and for staffers to be trained.
The report recommended that the police be called in to probe the matter further and criminal charges against any staffers found to be responsible.
GECOM, in its defense, said that it could find nowhere in the report where anyone could be found culpable and that it would be difficult therefore to engage the police to pursue criminal indictments.
Among other things, the police are being asked to find out how a quote from Massy Technology ended up in the system. The company has denied it ever submitted one.
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