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GECOM being run like old-time cake shop (Pt 1)

first_imgDear Editor,With each passing day, the inherent fault lines eroding the democratic purpose of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) threaten to graduate into a devastating tsunami. In fact, the magnitude of evidence in the widely circulated public media from many disappointed stakeholders puts the rebranded image of the organisation as tantamount to that of an old-time cake shop being run with hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money.It is clear that the undercurrents have further deepened, since the strongly-challengeable, unilateral appointment by President Granger of the Chairman, Justice (retired) James Patterson. Nothing significant has so far been done by the Chairman to remedy the problematic issues at GECOM. Rather, things seem to have gotten worse, rendering the decaying grey matter incapable of adjusting to, or overseeing, a meaningful input that would cleanse the infested cake shop operations.In essence, when appointed, Commissioners have to take to the public media to air the overwhelming internal inefficacies and dirty linen permeating GECOM. It is a clear sign that we are fast approaching breaking point!Numerous published evidence -based revelations provide a very dismal picture of the many distasteful happenings being conducted within the organisation. Under Chairman James Patterson’s watch, Chief Executive Officer Keith Lowenfield acts as a lord unto himself, and has become even more emboldened to unleash another imbued ‘Town Clerk-like’ display.It was recently reported that when asked about approaches to expending on public relations projects, Lowenfield informed GECOM’s statutory meeting that once the Finance Ministry gave the accounting officer the approval to expend funds for any purpose, the GECOM Secretariat was not required to bring the issue before the Sub-Committee or the Commission.The seriousness of this erroneous response cannot be understated. Lowenfield pretends to be not any wiser following highly prosecutable findings contained in the report of the 2017 Auditor General’s examination of GECOM’s financial activities. It is clear that the procurement mechanism is being continually abused under a created guise of so-called urgent requirements for the same activities year after year; election after election. In essence, the internally applied approaches are being deliberately manipulated to accommodate fraud and handpicked beneficiaries.In a public entity such as GECOM, properly accountable practices are enshrined in the approved procurement legislation to address procedures that must be followed in the pre-procurement cycle; the cycle, and the post- procurement cycle. Critically, procedures in the law are specific to how this firm procures in terms of mandatory compliance procedures that support accountability. Particularly, they address the tender process, including forms of tendering — whether selective, public, or special; and consider strongly the Terms of Reference for the critical activities.In the GECOM setting, these do not often change, and are repeatable, since they are often informed by the plan for the specific elections and the related budget. This column, on numerous occasions, called for release of the GECOM budget, which often seems absent, abstract or lacking, in the interest of transparency and accountability.It is therefore appalling that the Commission would entertain such responses from the CEO of the Secretariat when requests for clarification are made by Commissioners.Notably, the Chairman of the Commission and the CEO of the Secretariat had, months ago, indicated the readiness of the organisation to fulfill the rudiments of the November 12th Local Government Elections.One had expected that such confirmation would have been driven by structured planning and budgeting, approved by the Commission (including all commissioners). One had expected that the execution of the Secretariat’s plan would have been strongly monitored, supported by a structured schedule that is devoid of occurrences of fraudulent financial manipulation to benefit a few. One would have expected that the high-risk elements which undermine the required level of professionalism would have been identified, and approaches to mitigate them would have been employed.Sincerely,Neil Kumarlast_img

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