GECOM hiring practices: Chairman, HR refused to cooperate with probe

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Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice James Patterson and other top officials refused to cooperate with the investigation into its hiring practices, in a move which was found to be “deliberate and wilful”.

This is according to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), which was charged with conducting the probe following reports of racial preferences in the employment of staff at the elections body.

The other listed uncooperative individuals are Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers and Human Resources Manager, Marcia Crawford. “The unavailability of key personnel did not allow for extensive deliberations to arrive at a more informed conclusion,” the report outlined.

“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.”

While ERC Commissioner Norris Witter said he is satisfied with the quality of the probe in spite of these challenges, another Commissioner, Norman McLean, admitted that the outcome of the investigation could have been different had these individuals cooperated.

In the case of Justice Patterson, he made himself available for an interview with investigators on the overlooking of the top-ranked candidate, Vishnu Persaud, for the DCEO post. The GECOM Chairman made certain allegations which he could not back up with facts and as such, he undertook to provide the evidence.

However, the reappearance of the Chairman to produce those documents to corroborate his claims never happened.

On November 7, 2017, a month after he was interviewed, Justice Patterson was reminded via letter to submit his evidential documents but he never fulfilled his promise of doing so.

Multiple requests to the Human Resources Manager to submit herself for an interview proved futile, resulting in the ERC’s inability to investigate the general hiring practices at GECOM. As a result, it was unable to determine whether there is an unfair practice of hiring at the elections body.

Particularly, the ERC said it was prevented from adequately investigating 1) the allegation of ethnic imbalance at GECOM; 2) the allegedly discriminatory employment practices prior to and post-November 2017; 3) the methodology used in the selection of a successful candidate for employment at GECOM, among others.

Regarding Myers’ nonappearance, the ERC explained that the DCEO knew that her appointment was one of the principal subjects of the inquiry and her refusal to present herself for questioning can be considered as putting her own personal interests above her public duty.

In its report, the ERC said: “the failure of these persons to assist…in this inquiry is nothing but a clear and inexcusable dereliction of their public duty”.

Going forward, the ERC said it would like to amend its laws so it can have subpoena powers, ie the authority to summon individuals.

The Commission currently has some 20 requests for investigations, nearly half of it submitted by politicians.

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