Auditors probing the alleged procurement fraud at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were told that there were security concerns prior to the purchase of radio sets for use in the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
GECOM spent $100 million to secure 50 radio sets from Mobile Authority specifically for use at the 2015 elections. Auditors found that only five of the sets were issued prior to the elections. This means that 45 of the 50 radio sets valued at approximately $89.604 million were not utilised.
According to the Auditor General’s report, Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, had made the revelation to auditors. Lowenfield, who heads GECOM’s Secretariat, had stated that the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) was engaged to assist the Commission with the provision of other communication equipment.
Auditors were told that some 12 satellite phones were provided by UNDP which were used instead of the radios GECOM had procured.
Auditors noted that contrary to Lowenfield’s explanation, documentation examined revealed that GECOM conducted the procurement process for the acquisition of the 12 satellite phones on behalf of the UNDP.
The investigation revealed that GECOM wrote to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) on April 21, 2015, seeking approval to buy 12 satellite phones from Mobile Authority. This was done two days prior to GECOM seeking approval from the NPTAB to purchase the 50 radio sets.
It was revealed that the NPTAB issued the award of the 12 satellite phones on April 23, 2015, whilst, the award for the 50 radio sets was issued on May 4, 2015, some 11 days later.
Further, it was discovered that the satellite phones were received by GECOM on April 30, 2015 and one week later, the radio sets were received on May 6 and May 7, 2015.
The commission is accused of several breaches in pursing the purchase of the radio sets from Mobile Authority. Auditors found that the Commission did not use public tendering for the procurement, citing time constraints; however, auditors found that 88 percent of the radio sets was yet to be used up as of late last year.
The entire system unravelled once state auditors decided on the Commission following weeks of reporting by Kaieteur News.
Once inside, auditors found that the request for quotations (RFQ), which was not dated, was sent out by GECOM’s administrative department to three suppliers for specifically 50 HF Barrett brand radios. The suppliers, auditors found, were Advance Office Systems, Massy Technologies and the eventual supplier, Mobile Authority who quoted two different brands and three types of radios even though one supplier quoted for the items specified in the RFQ.
It was noted that GECOM applied to NPTAB for use of selective tendering after the commission had sought quotations from the suppliers. GECOM even evaluated the quotations which auditors stated was a breach of the procurement process.
In essence, the administrative department performed the tasks of the evaluation committee and selected Mobile Authority based on the company submitting the lowest bid.
Auditors noted that since the contract with Mobile Authority was signed a mere six days prior to the hosting of the 2015 elections, it would have been impractical to utilize the radios purchased as intended.
In his report to Lowenfield and the seven-member Commissioners, including the chairman, Auditor General, Deodat Sharma stated clearly that the Guyana Police Force will be called in to conduct an in-depth investigation with a view to instituting charges if criminal offences are deemed to have been committed.
Some Commissioners have stated that they have not received the Auditor’s final report although the reports were sent to the Commission by the Auditor General’s office. The reports were left tucked away on the Chairman’s desk until recently.
Kaieteur News has confirmed that some Commissioners have started to review the report’s findings with hopes of having the matter fully discussed.
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