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Gov’t cannot order forensic audit into “independent” GECOM – Harmon

Government has ruled out ordering a forensic audit into the operations of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), saying that it is now constitutionally an autonomous body.

“At this point in time, we will have no consideration to say let us do an audit of GECOM. These are now independent bodies and so we cannot go and say to them ‘do this or do that’,” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told a post-cabinet news conference.

There have been calls in some circles for a forensic audit to be conducted at the country’s elections management authority in the wake of concerns about procurement practices that might have led the entity to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of now unused radio communication sets.

The Auditor General is currently auditing GECOM’s books including the sourcing of the radio communication sets from a local company.

While the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has since called for the contract of Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield not to be renewed due to GECOM’s procurement practices, he has said that he had had very little to do with purchases more than GYD$250,000.

Lowenfield said at that time, GECOM’s spending was being supervised by the Ministry of Finance and that purchases valued more than GYD$250,000 were passed through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) then to Cabinet that offered its no-objection.

The Commission has since been listed as a budget agency, following the change of government at the May, 2015 general elections.

The Minister of State suggested that any decision to call for a forensic audit has to come from the seven-member bipartisan Commission.  “The Commission is being run by Commissioners. They have a structure and the government and the people of Guyana will have to put pressure on that structure to function,” he said.

Three Commissioners have been nominated by the PPPC, the other three by the APNU and the chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally has been picked from a list of names that the then opposition had submitted to then President.