The statements attributed to the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and relating to the Auditor General, are appalling. There was no need for that sort of reaction which was intemperate and ill-advised.
At the centre of the controversy was the spending of millions of dollars on purchases which ranged from radios to pliers, batteries and toners. This was in the run-up to the 2015 General and Regional Elections. The public has an interest in the outcome of the audit by the Auditor General. It is hoped that the Commission, also, is of the same mind.
The Kaieteur News last week reported the Chairman of GECOM as saying that the Auditor General is free to go directly to the police in relation to allegations of fraudulent procurement practices at the Commission.
The Chairman, Justice James Patterson, needs to be reminded that while there is nothing preventing the Auditor General from doing so, this is not the Auditor General’s role.
The primary responsibility for doing so rests with the governing board of GECOM, of which Justice James Patterson is the head. It is his responsibility to ensure that the allegations are dealt with condignly, efficiently and in a timely manner. The buck stops with the Guyana Elections Commission, not with the Auditor General.
It is not a question, also, of the Auditor General exercising his powers. It is a question of responsibility for accountability. It is the Commission, which Justice James Patterson heads, which has the responsibility for the work of the Commission. And if there are allegations of malpractice in the work of the commission, then it requires that the allegations are dealt with expeditiously, regardless of whether the persons allegedly implicated are guards or higher-ups.
There was no need for the Chairman to question the motives of the Auditor General. The Auditor General has acted correctly. In fact, the Auditor General is giving GECOM more time to undertake the review of his report, which recommended that the police be called in.
The Auditor General is the external auditor of the public accounts of Guyana. He is empowered by the Audit Act to undertake special audits. It is a requirement of the Audit Act that when an audit is undertaken, the Auditor General is statutorily obligated to advise the head of the agency or its governing authority of the findings, and afford them an opportunity to respond. The head or the governing authority is required, by law, to respond within 30 days.
The requirement of allowing the agency to respond to the findings is to ensure fairness. The Auditor General is obligated to include the response in his final report.
There is therefore no reason to question why the Auditor General is pressing GECOM for its response. It is a requirement of the law that he affords them an opportunity to respond, and that their response must be within thirty days and must be incorporated in his report.
If GECOM fails to respond within thirty days to a demand from the Auditor General, it is in violation of the law, and this is not something that the Commissioner should countenance. It is unacceptable. Moreover, it is in the Commission’s interest to disabuse the public of allegations of malpractice in its procurement. GECOM therefore has an obligation, legal and moral, to act with haste in responding to the Auditor General.
It is therefore absurd for the claim to be made that GECOM is an independent body and cannot be pressured. GECOM is required under the law to give its review of the findings of the Auditor General. It does not have to agree with those findings. But it is mandatory that it responds.
The administrative head or the governing authority of GECOM should have been keen to contradict whatever adverse recommendations the Auditor General has made about the report.
According to this newspaper, the audit found that GECOM breached procurement regulations when it went ahead and evaluated the quotes for the radios without first seeking the approval of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
The question to be asked therefore is not about the motives of the Auditor General, but why GECOM is taking so long to undertake its review. If this is an indication of the time it will take for GECOM to release the results of General and Regional Elections, then Guyana is going backwards, not forward.
The sentiments expressed about “independence” of GECOM, “excessive conduct” and “explore, examine and explain” are irrelevant.
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