Dec 10, 2017 News
Copies of the report from the Auditor General’s (AG) probe into the alleged $100 million procurement fraud at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were sent to Commissioners in April.
However, they were left lying on the desk of the Chairman at the GECOM Secretariat for several months.
According to new information obtained by Kaieteur News, the reports for the seven-member Commission were signed for by staff at GECOM, but it wasn’t until October that some Commissioners started to receive copies.
This was done shortly before Justice James Patterson (ret’d) was unilaterally appointed Chairman by President David Granger on October 19 last.
Up to last week, some Commissioners had not seen the report which is yet to be discussed at the Commission’s weekly meetings.
Given the seriousness of the fraud allegations in the report, Commissioners have been asked repeatedly by the media about the recommendation for police action.
The Commissioners could not provide answers because they said they had not seen the report.
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.
Under Patterson’s chairmanship, the Commissioners met for the third time last Tuesday and the report was not discussed, although the AG had addressed the report to Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, the accounting officer for the Commission.
The report is dated April 21. It arrived at the Commission two months after Dr. Steve Surujbally stepped down as the Commission’s Chairman.
The new information raises several pertinent questions surrounding the reason for the delay in presenting the report to the Commissioners and whether anyone had ordered the delay in the presentation of the report. It also begs the question about the motive for delaying the report’s presentation.
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, SaseGunraj, Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman.
GECOM’s Secretariat, headed by Keith Lowenfield, is 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 that 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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