Auditor General Deodat Sharma has granted the Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) more time to complete their review of reports that detail a trail of alleged procurement frauds.
Following audits at GECOM, Sharma had recommended that the reports be turned over to the police for criminal investigations. He had given the Commissioners until the first week of February to hand over the reports to the police.
“There was no chairman; then one of the members died. I had to resend the report so you have to give them some time. It is not a case of leniency,” Sharma stated.
The Auditor General’s office prepared three reports that include the $100 million purchase of radios, the purchase of pliers and the procurement of toners. Sharma had recommended that the Commissioners turn over the reports to the police, failing which, he himself will provide the reports to police investigators.
Sharma told Kaieteur News that he had given the Commissioners more time to deliberate on the reports, taking into consideration that a new Chairman in Justice James Patterson (ret’d), was appointed in October.
He added that Desmond Trotman was also recently appointed as a Commissioner.
The other Commissioners who are reviewing the AG reports are Robeson Benn, Vincent Alexander, Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj, and Charles Corbin.
The report on the procurement of radios dated April 2017 was sent to the GECOM Secretariat. It was not immediately provided to the Commissioners.
GECOM’s Secretariat, headed by Maj. Keith 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.
Sharma and his team had descended on the GECOM office to investigate worrisome procurement practices at the entity that overlooks general and local government elections.
One of the activities for the 2015 general elections was the purchase of several communication radios. This particular report raised many unanswered questions.
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The report found that on top of that purchase for the radios which were all outdated, GECOM went ahead and bought 12 satellite phones for use, in case the radios could not be put into operation.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 still 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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