Jan 21, 2023 News
…GECOM says not first time staff seconded, or appointed without Commission knowledge
Kaieteur News – Chairwoman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh has defended her decision to create a temporary post at the Commission noting that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) is overwhelmed and the absence of a Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) warranted the selection of an internal employee to fill the void.
Justice Singh also made it clear that there is precedence at the Commission where staff are seconded to fill posts. In a statement to the media, the GECOM Chair said that in one case, a staff seconded was hired to serve without the Commission’s approval.
In response to concerns highlighted in this newspaper by Opposition Commissioner Vincent Alexander, GECOM indicated that no new position was created, only a title of ‘Operations Coordinator’ since the staff would be working in the Operations Department of the Commission’s Secretariat.
In a timeline of what transpired, GECOM said that on November 9, 2022, the agency’s Chief Election Officer (CEO), Vishnu Persaud wrote a memo to the Chair requesting approval for the secondment of Mr. Aneal Giddings, IT Manager to the Operations Department of the Commission’s Secretariat to assist with the day-to-day implementation and evaluation of the statutory and administrative tasks delineated in the Work plan for the conduct of Local Government Elections (LGEs).
In justifying his request, GECOM said the CEO noted that, unlike the conduct of General and Regional Elections, which takes place in a disaggregated manner in ten different Electoral Districts, the LGEs will be conducted in eighty Local Authority Areas (LAAs) comprising ten Municipalities and seventy Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs).
The CEO further pointed out that considering (i), the multiplicity of sequential and simultaneous tasks required to be implemented at Operations level for the LGEs, and (ii) the position of Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) being vacant, it is of vital importance for a Senior Manager who is au fait with operations management relative to the conduct of elections to be assigned the responsibility of assisting him (CEO) with ensuring that all of the required tasks are efficiently and effectively implemented in accordance with the timelines set out in the workplan for the LGEs.
In this regard, GECOM said the Chairman approved the request with the understanding that Mr. Giddings would be referred to as ‘Operations Coordinator’ within the Operations Department of the Commission’s Secretariat since he would be responsible for carrying out responsibilities that would normally fall within the list of duties of DCEO.
“The Chairman gave her approval for the secondment of Mr. Giddings with the full knowledge that she (i) was not creating any new position, (ii) was not making an appointment, and (iii) was aware that there is precedence of staff having been seconded, and in one case even appointed, without the knowledge and approval of the Commission.”
Further, GECOM said that the Chairman’s approval of the requested secondment was based on the understanding that this would be a temporary arrangement until a suitable candidate is appointed to the position of DCEO. Mr. Giddings also maintains his substantive position of IT Manager, GECOM related.
On the subject of filling the vacancy of DCEO, GECOM said that filling of all existing vacancies was placed numerous times on the Agenda of Statutory Meetings of the Commission. However, this topic was always deferred due to the need for the Commission to focus its attention on more pressing matters associated with preparations for the conduct of Local Government elections.
Needless to say, the filling of vacancies is again in focus. Accordingly, Mr. Giddings secondment will come to an end upon the appointment of a DCEO, GECOM said.
When Opposition Commissioners raised this matter last week, Alexander expressed concern that while the IT manager had been selected since last November to carry out functions of the important DCEO office, no information was related to them, despite hiring for senior positions at the agency being done by the Commission.
Alexander claimed that the Commissioners happened to see a carbon copy letter to the Operations Coordinator earlier this month and then became aware that the IT manager was fulfilling DCEO tasks under a different name.
Alexander is arguing that GECOM was well aware that it would need its DCEO hence the request to fill the position by the opposition. He said for six months applicants for more suitable persons sat with the Commission but the Chair decided that LGE preparations overshadowed filling the vacant post.
Alexander had stated that even if the intention was to help the CEO, the Assistant Chief Elections Officer (ACEO) should be next in line rather than the IT manager. Alexander said the IT manager had applied for the DCEO post but he was less suitable for the job, lacking the necessary experience. Alexander believes that “deliberately” hiding the hiring of the IT staff to the temporary post is a calculated move to get the staff to acquire the necessary experience so that he may get the DCEO job.
In 2021, it was reported that Melanie Marshall, Neil Bacchus, Mohamed Arjoon, and Deodat Persaud had been shortlisted for the DCEO post. At the same time, Vishnu Persaud, Aneal Giddings, Eugene Petty, Deodat Persaud, Kurt Clarke, and Leslie Harrow were shortlisted for the CEO post. While Persaud became CEO, the DCEO post remained vacant.
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