GECOM granted $$millions more …despite unaddressed fraud issues
Nov 19, 2017 , https://www.kaieteurnewsonline...ressed-fraud-issues/
Fraud allegations involving the expenditure of $100 million still hang over the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) which has been approved to spend $192.8 million on capital projects in 2018.
All of the actors at the center of the Auditor General’s investigation into the alleged $100M fraud that surrounds the purchase of communication equipment remain in place. The Commission which is still to hold its first meeting in nearly a year is said to be delaying further action on the forensic audit report.
The Ministry of Finance has indicated that GECOM and other constitutional agencies have not submitted a procurement plan which was a requirement of the 2018 budget circular.
Overall, GECOM has been approved for $2 billion, the largest allocation of all the constitutional agencies. GECOM’s allocation includes a $21 million upgrade to the IT office and a further $7.2 million for the purchase of 40 desktop computers to replace current systems in Region 4.
Other major projects expected to be undertaken by GECOM in 2018 include the construction of a registration office at Whim, East Berbice-Corentyne at a cost of $25 million and a $50 million project to construct a registration office at Kamarang, Region Seven, in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni region.
Also planned, is the construction a 3600 sq ft tarmac at Coldigen Complex at a cost of $17 million which will be used to store materials and equipment for security purposes. GECOM has also been approved for $20 million to source new, advanced equipment to replace used and worn out ones to upgrade the ID production process.
Some $8 million is approved for the purchase of two boats to traverse interior locations in conducting registration and field verification for Regions One and Seven.
INACTION ON AUDIT
Chairman of GECOM, retired Justice James Patterson, was appointed on October 19, last, and is yet to call his first meeting of the Commission. Commissioner, Bibi Shaddick wants the report on the forensic audit to be high on the agenda.
Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, has indicated a willingness to use the powers of his office to call in the police if the Commissioners fail to act on the recommendations in his report.
The audit report was handed over to Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, who is also the accounting officer, but without the meeting of the Commission, further action has not been taken.
GECOM’s Secretariat, which is headed by Lowenfield, is being accused of deliberately overseeing a system of procurement frauds involving hundreds of millions of dollars in purchases– from radios, to pliers and batteries, to toners.
The Auditor General had descended on GECOM’s office after a series of articles pointed to what appeared to be worrying procurement frauds at an entity that overlooks General and Local Government elections.
One of the purchases for the 2015 General elections was the purchase of several communication radios. It was found that less than 90 percent of the radios were used despite the strong reasons advanced by GECOM to the administration for the purchases. Some $100M was being spent.
It was found that the radios arrived too late to be deployed for the May 11, 2015 elections.
The radios were purchased from Mobile Authority, owned by Water Street businessman, Michael Brasse.
The report found that on top of that purchase for the radios which were all outdated, GECOM went ahead and bought 12 satellite phones for use in case the radios could not be put into operation. When Local Government Elections were held in 2016, the radios were not used.
Checks on the radios found that six of the 50 radio sets were not working.
GECOM defended itself for not going to tender by saying that it had little time before the May 11, 2015 elections to undertake the purchase. There were other questionable purchases, forged quotations and prices that were way above market prices paid for several other things.
Some of these include Duracell batteries, nippers, toners for printers and even office furniture.
While Mobile Authority quoted for other brands of radios, it was selected over another bidder, Advance Officer Systems, which met the criteria. In the three quotes for the radios, one was from Massy Technology dated a year earlier.
The Audit Office found GECOM breached procurement regulations when it went ahead and evaluated the quotes for the radios without first seeking the approval of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). This was done after.
In fact, the audit report found that GECOM signed the contract for the radios six days before the elections, making it impossible for the radios to be sourced, delivered, and installed in remote locations and for staffers to be trained.
GECOM, in its defence, said that it could find nowhere in the report where anyone could be found culpable and that it would be difficult therefore to engage the police to pursue criminal indictments.
Among other things, the police are being asked to find out how a quote from Massy Technology ended up in the system. The company has denied it ever submitted one.