The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has provided no credible or justifiable grounds why it cannot supply the statements of poll (SOPs) on which the declaration of the results were made in the 10 electoral districts.
If GECOM has nothing to hide and if it is serious about transparency, it should release the Statements of Polls (SOPs) upon which these declarations were made. It would appear to be the right of participating political parties to receive such information.
In December 2011, the Guyana Elections Commission dispatched copies of SOPs to the parties, which had contested the 2011 General and Regional Elections. Each of the contesting parties received soft copies, on a DVD disk, of the scanned SOPs for the country’s 10 electoral districts.
The declared results by the respective Returning Officers are subject to tabulation and verification by the Commission. GECOM cannot therefore operate on the basis that the declared results at the District level are the official results. This point seems to be eluding the Commission when it says that it has to await the decision of the Court.
I quote the following from the Report of the Observer Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in respect to the tabulation process at the level of the District and at the Central level:-
“The OAS observers were informed by GECOM personnel that the following procedures would be followed for the tabulation of the Statements of Poll (SOPs) at GECOM’s offices: a) After tabulation by the Returning Officers at the District level, the official envelope containing the SOPs would be transferred to GECOM’s headquarters.
b) Upon arrival at GECOM, all SOPs would necessarily be verified by the Commissioners to detect clerical or mathematical errors. Rejected SOPs were to be sent back to the Returning Officers to be re-constituted with all original parties present.
c) After the initial verification by GECOM Commissioners, the SOPs would be scanned into the computer tabulation center, inputted into the computer system, verified by a team of GECOM employees, and tabulated digitally.
d) The original SOP hard copies were then to be sent to the office of the Chief Election Officer where a manual count would take place by a small group of GECOM staff.”
It seems clear to me from the above that the Commissioner had in the past opted to verify the SOPs to detect mistakes and to return these for correction at the District level. GECOM thus had in the past exercised its right to send back mistakes made, at the District level for correction in the presence of the representatives of the contesting parties.
GECOM, at the central level, also undertook its own tabulations of the SOPs. The Manual of GECOM for Presiding Officers instructs that copies of the SOPs (Form 23 A) must be made for the Returning Officer (RO), the Deputy Returning Officer (DRO and the Chief Election Officer (CEO).
The CEO therefore ought to be in receipt of all the SOPs. He can therefore compare these with the SOPs of the declared results from the ROs and if there are material mistakes, this can be the basis for him returning the incorrect SOPs to the RO for correction. Failure to do so would amount to complicity in a false declaration.
A third line of verification also existed. Before the results were presented to the Commission for approval of the official declaration, the CEO was expected to receive the hard copies of the SOPs and to undertake a manual count with a small group of GECOM staff.
The Report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission also reported this parallel tabulations at the District and central levels. This is what it stated in its Report of the 2011 elections.
“Once the Returning Officer received the Statements of Poll a Region-wide tabulation was conducted. At the same time the Chief Election Officer, who also receives copies of each Statement of Poll, also tabulates.”
Given the claims made by opposition parties and local and international observers, it would be highly suspect if the tabulations made by the Returning Officer of District 4 are the same as those of the Chief Election Officer at the central level. The CEO, at the central level, cannot be expected to present declarations to the full Commission, which do not concur with his own tabulations done at the Central level.
It is therefore respectfully submitted that the mere fact that the Returning Officers have made their ‘official declarations’ at the District level, does not preclude the Commission from verifying these results and, if needs be, ordering corrective surgery. Such a course of action would be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, which allows GECOM to “…issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary and expedient to ensure impartiality and fairness…”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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