Opposition wants findings of GECOM audit to be made public

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Allegations of high-level corruption at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has caught the attention of the political opposition, and the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, has called for there to be full public disclosure of the final report of an audit into the electoral body being conducted by the Audit Office of Guyana over an alleged racket involving the procurement of several radio sets ahead of last year’s national elections.

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

State auditors earlier this month launched a major probe after the Audit Office of Guyana reportedly noticed some discrepancies with the purchasing of 50 VHF communication radios by GECOM for close to G$100 million, prior to the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections, raising concerns over the extraordinarily high cost of the equipment.

Jagdeo’s office, in a statement, said that it noted with “deep concern” the allegations of irregularity and the implications of corruption in the procurement of the communication equipment.

It added that it was equally concerned with “the corresponding silence” of GECOM’s Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, and the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield.

“As an independent constitutional body, GECOM enjoys financial, functional and operational autonomy and like every agency which is financed with public funds must account in a transparent manner for the expenditure of these funds,” Jagdeo’s office said.

The Opposition Leader believes that the Commission is expending “herculean efforts and a tremendous amount of time” in attempting to dismiss and/or delay the hearing and determination of the Elections petition filed on behalf of the PPP/C, “because it will expose the electoral machinery and system administered and managed by GECOM to public scrutiny – an exercise, which they fervently wish to avoid.”

Jagdeo’s office said that in the circumstances, it welcomes the decision to conduct an audit of these transactions by the Office of the Auditor General and demand that the findings of this audit be made public. Based on reports, the radio sets were purchased for use during the 2015 General and Regional Elections, particular in the outlying regions of Guyana; however, they were never put into use after it was discovered many of them were not working.

Later, information surfaced that while the electoral body would have collected quotations from a number of suppliers, it handed the contract for the supply of the equipment to Mobile Authority, a company owned by a Water Street, Georgetown businessman.

But media reports later surfaced that some of the equipment purchased were obsolete and were not covered by warranty.

As a matter of fact, sections of the Guyanese media reported that the Australian-based manufacturer, Barrett Communications, through its European office, distanced itself from the purchase.

The company made it clear that it had ceased to produce the equipment more than five years ago. Barrett said it had also tendered through the Advanced Office Systems for the supply of new radio equipment for the 2015 elections; however, GECOM subsequently cancelled the order.

 

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