The move by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to procure, among other vehicles, five ‘new Land Cruisers’ in the run-up to Local Government Elections (LGE) in November, has observers raising their eyebrows over the amount of taxpayers dollars that will be expended in such a venture.
Their concerns are premised on the financial discrepancies unearthed by the Auditor General (AG) relating to the supply of pliers and high-frequency radios in the run-up to the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
In 2016, AG Deodat Sharma conducted a special audit after there were discrepancies with the purchasing of 50VHF (Very High Frequency) communication radios by GECOM for close to $100 million.
These purchases had occurred prior to the May 2015 General and Regional Elections and raised concerns over the extraordinarily high cost of the equipment.
In April 2015, GECOM spent some $14.8 million for the purchase of nippers/pliers that was meant to be used on ballot boxes at 2299 polling stations across the country. By division, the unit cost amounted to some $6600. Checks two years ago revealed that similar pliers were retailing at $600.
The vehicles under question cost around $18 million each (USD$84,765) but the cost to the taxpayer could amount to be much higher when other taxes are included.
In an advertisement published on September 19, 2018, in the local newspapers, the elections body invited sealed bids from qualified bidders for the procurement of vehicles in two lots. The “Lot 1” section seeks five ‘new Land Cruisers’ while “Lot 2” will require two ‘new minibuses’.
The bidders for the five luxury vehicles and the two buses will have to submit their bids to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) at the Finance Ministry’s headquarters in Georgetown on or before October 9.
GECOM further explained that this bidding will be conducted through the National Competitive Bidding (NCB) procedures in keeping with regulations as outlined in the National Procurement Act of 2003.
In its defence an official disclosed to this media group that “GECOM is located all across the country and our fleet of vehicles that we have are very old. For years they have been overused, some are not even in proper working condition”.
Moreover, Public Relations Officer of GECOM, Yolanda Warde justified the body’s move to procure the items on the basis that such vehicles are needed for the entity to carry out its operations.
“Like anything else, a vehicle is a necessity for the day-to-day functioning of the organisation and so it’s important for us to continue to replenish to ensure that we have working vehicles to ensure that we effectively execute our mandate,” Yarde explained.