Watchdog body, the Ethnic Relations Committee (ERC), has ruled in a complaint filed by the Opposition asking for an investigation into the hiring practices of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). The commission had also been asked to pronounce on the appointment of Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers.
In released excerpts of the final report by ERC, it was disclosed that former Deputy CEO, Vishnu Persaud, who was one of the candidates applying for the position last year, had scored higher than Myers during the interviewing process.
“By all objective criteria, Mr. Persaud was, on the available evidence, the most qualified candidate for appointment to the position of DCEO. By long established practice, the candidate acquiring the highest score secured the appointment. Save and except for the case of Mr. Gocool Boodoo, all appointments were made upon the unanimous vote of all of the Commissioners,” the report said.
It was pointed out that before Myers’ vote by the commission, the vote of the Chairman to break a voting deadlock happened only once before in GECOM.
“In all other cases, the appointments were made following a consensus between all of the Commissioners: that is to say the three Commissioners appointed by the President acting in his own deliberate judgment together with the three Commissioners appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition.”
The ERC said that Persaud whose contract was not renewed a few years ago as DCEO, was the first candidate in the history of GECOM who had obtained the highest score and had not been appointed.
“Because of the way that our population is distributed over the country, it is inevitable that in some areas where there is a preponderance of Guyanese of a given ethnicity, there is likely to be a majority of employees in those areas of the majority ethnicity.”
ERC found that there are no institutional rules or practices in GECOM, which allows for ethnic discrimination in hiring. In fact, at GECOM, there are people who are vigilant enough.
“The six Commissioners are all vigilant to ensure that no such discrimination can be practised without challenge. The unavailability of key personnel did not allow for extensive deliberations to arrive at a more informed conclusion.”
With regards to hiring practices, ERC said there was not enough cooperation from key GECOM staffers to have been able to conclude that there was a problem.
“As such, from the material placed before us, it cannot be said that there has been any evidence of deliberate hiring of Guyanese of one ethnicity rather than of another.”
Opposition members of the GECOM in a letter to the ERC, dated July 17, 2018, asked it to conduct an inquiry into the employment practices at GECOM in general and the recent vote by the Chairman of GECOM in favour of a second-ranked candidate in particular.
ERC invited three persons to serve as members of a sub-committee of the Commission.
They include Stanley Moore, LLM, Justice of Appeal (Ret’d) –Chairman; Jairam Petam-Human Resources Consultant and Lloyd Alvin Smith, DSM, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Ret’d) –Investigator.
Additionally, Major General (Ret’d) Norman Mc Lean and Norris Witter also served on the Sub-Committee as representatives of ERC.
Among other things, ERC was supposed to conduct interviews with the Chairman, Commissioners, and the Chief Elections Officer.
It was suggested that interviews were supposed to be held with the Human Resources practitioners of GECOM, to ascertain the employment and performance appraisal procedures and practices.
ERC also had wanted the copies of the advertisements for the position of DCEO to ascertain whether the position was advertised internally and subsequently externally to the local Guyanese population as well as overseas applicants.
The Commission said it was advised through the media that a score sheet was prepared that showed a score of 76 for Persaud and 72 for Roxanne Myers.
The Sub-Committee said its work was considerably handicapped by the non-appearance before them of Myers, Marcia Crawford, Human Resources Manager, GECOM, and Justice Patterson.
“This failure cannot be described as anything other than deliberate and willful. At first, the excuse was that elections were pending and that they could not spare the time. After the elections were concluded, Justice Patterson (Ret’d) suggested that “perhaps you all have bring (sic) some terror into the lady.” Justice Patterson had earlier appeared before the Ethnic Relations Commission. Mr. Lowenfield the Chief Election Officer also appeared before us. No session lasted for more than an hour approximately. The failure of these persons to assist the Sub-Committee in this inquiry is nothing but a clear and inexcusable dereliction of their public duty.”
The ERC said that Myers knew that her appointment was one of the principal subjects of the enquiry.
“She was aware that her qualifications and experiences would be considered by the Sub-Committee. Ms. Marcia Crawford knew that the GECOM Human Resources management protocols and procedures lay at the very heart of the enquiry. Their refusal to assist the enquiry by their presence or by written submissions amounted to a deliberate hobbling of the Sub-Committee in the production of an informed report. It can also be seen as putting their own personal interests above their public duty.”
The ERC said that the Sub-Committee was left to do its own research, and that on paper, Persaud was by far the more suitable candidate for appointment to the post of Deputy CEO of GECOM.
In October, Myers was sworn in as the new DCEO.
GECOM commissioners for the opposition, Robeson Benn, Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shaddick had favoured Persaud, who held the post up to 2017 when his contract expired.
Using the existing process at the Commission, Chairman Patterson used his casting vote on the seven-member Commission, against Persaud’s appointment.
The number-two ranked applicant, who was Myers, received support from Patterson and the Government Commissioners, Desmond Trotman, Vincent Alexander and Charles Corbin.
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