GECOM audit…no word on implementing recommendationsGuyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman James Patterson is maintaining that investigations into procurement malpractice at the entity he heads will be allowed to run its natural course.There had been concerns about the political will at GECOM to face the Auditor General’s damning findings. At a press conference on Friday, Patterson indicated that they would sit back and let the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) do her job.“As far as I know, he (Auditor General Deodat Sharma) made his way to the DPP. Further, I know not. It stays where it is, whatever is dealt with. If we have to comment… let it take its natural course. He took it to the DPP and it should be her call how to deal with it.”This still leaves the question of what GECOM may be doing to address loopholes in the system that allowed the infractions to occur in the first place. But despite being asked what changes have been made in procurement at GECOM, Patterson could not say. Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield was also reticent on the subject.“What I know about the audit report is that the Commissioners, based on all that the Auditor General would have said, the Commissioners here deliberated, and they made some recommendations. And I haven’t heard anything from then to now, other than let’s go to the Police,” Lowenfield said.When Auditor General Deodat Sharma conducted his audit in 2016, it had uncovered a number of discrepancies. The discrepancies were regarding the purchase of 50 VHF communication radios by GECOM for close to $100 million.Concerns were raised over the extraordinarily high cost of the equipment. The investigation’s scope included contracts, inventories and spending for the May 2015 General and Regional Elections.Besides the radios, some of the things that the State’s auditors were looking into were the purchase of a quantity of toners, pliers and batteries. Based on reports, the radio sets were purchased for use during the 2015 General and Regional Elections, particularly in the outlying regions of Guyana; however, they were never put into use after it was discovered many of them were not working.Later, information surfaced that while the electoral body would have collected quotations from a number of suppliers, it handed the contract for the supply of the equipment to Mobile Authority, a company owned by a Water Street, Georgetown businessman.But media reports later surfaced that some of the equipment purchased was obsolete and was not covered by warranty. As a matter of fact, sections of the Guyanese media reported that the Australia-based manufacturer, Barrett Communications, through its European office, distanced itself from the purchase.The company had made it clear that it had ceased to produce the equipment more than five years ago. Barrett said it had also tendered through the Advanced Office Systems for the supply of new radio equipment for the 2015 elections; however, GECOM subsequently cancelled the order.The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had previously called for the release of the findings, in addition to questioning the deafening silence of GECOM’s then Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally and the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, on the matter. Both were in power at the Commission when the purchases were made.The Auditor General also found that prior to the 2015 elections, the entity engaged in contract splitting in order to avoid Cabinet scrutiny. There are reports that one recommendation included GECOM implementing internal control systems to oversee payment vouchers.