…still no official discussion on findings
The report from the Auditor General (AG) findings into the alleged $100 million procurement fraud at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been seen by some of the agency’s seven Commissioners.
A source close to the Commission has confirmed that while some Commissioners have seen the report, the contents are yet to be discussed at the Commission’s weekly meetings which have resumed following the appointment of Justice James Patterson (ret’d) as Chairman on October 19 last.
Under Patterson’s chairmanship, the Commissioners met for the third time on Tuesday and the report was not discussed, although the AG had presented his findings several months ago to Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, the accounting officer for the Commission.
Auditor General, Deodat Sharma and his team had descended on GECOM’s office after a series of articles pointed to what appeared to be worrying procurement practices at the entity that overlooks general and local government elections.
Sharma had recommended that the Commissioners call in the police to conduct further investigations based on the findings, failing which, he would utilise his legal powers to turn the report over to the police.
Along with Justice Patterson, the commissioners who will review the AG’s report are Robeson Benn, Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj, Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman.
This week, Alexander had questioned why he and other Commissioners have not yet received the AG’s official report.
“I am still not in possession of his [Auditor General] report. Why…is another question. I have not been sent a copy of his report, so I don’t have a document that would allow me to comment on what is in that report,” Alexander had told Kaieteur News.
GECOM’s Secretariat, headed by Lowenfield, has been accused of deliberately overseeing a system of procurement irregularities involving hundreds of millions of dollars in purchases – from radios, to pliers and batteries, to toners.
One of the purchases for the 2015 general elections was the purchase of several communication radios.
It was found that less than 90 percent of the radios were used despite the strong reasons advanced by GECOM to the administration for the purchases. Some $100M was spent.
It was found that the radios arrived too late to be deployed for the May 11, 2015 elections.
The report found that on top of that purchase for the radios which were all outdated, GECOM went ahead and bought 12 satellite phones for use in case the radios could not be put into operation.
When Local Government Elections were held in 2016, the radios were not used.
There were other questionable purchases, forged quotations and prices that were way above market prices paid for several other things.
Some of these included Duracell batteries, nippers, toners for printers, and even office furniture.
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, and installed in remote locations and for staffers to be trained.
GECOM, in its defence, 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 one business place ended up in the system, when the company has denied it ever submitted one.
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