Former Jamaica elections director among four shortlisted to be chief election officer

The Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) will soon begin interviewing four candidates shortlisted for the post of Chief Election Officer (CEO), including former Jamaican elections director Danville Walker.

The others shortlisted are two locals, acting CEO Calvin Benn and his acting Deputy Keith Lowenfield. A source told Stabroek News that the other two candidates are Walker, a Jamaican who previously headed the Electoral Office of Jamaica and United States-based Guyanese Savitri Singh.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that the criteria for short-listing from among the 14 applicants were settled last Tuesday and the names decided on.

Gecom sources have said that Walker and Singh would be interviewed via Skype as a cost and time-saving measure, while Benn and Lowenfield would have to face the seven-member commission.

Walker was appointed as Director of Elections and head of the Electoral Office of Jamaica from 1997 to 2008.

Singh, the source says, has a wealth of experience on electoral processes and has worked with US government officials.

Benn has worked with Gecom for over 20 years and is currently acting CEO, while Lowenfield has been there for over ten years and now acts as the Deputy CEO.

Given the political polarisation that pervades the decision-making table of Gecom, who could become the next CEO could very well be decided by Commis-sion Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally.

The CEO will be responsible for preparing strategic plans, work programmes, budgets and authorising relevant expenditure, taking into consideration Gecom’s mission, its internal and external environments and the needs and priorities of the Commission. The person will also review departmental reports and performance audits; provide direction and advise on improvements and resolution of problems.

He or she will be responsible for managing the registration of electors, and the conduct of elections of members of the National Assembly, the Regional Democratic Councils and Local Government Authorities, and all national or local referenda in Guyana. He or she will also supervise and monitor the establishment of the National Register of Registrants, from which a voter’s roll may be extracted, and the issuance of National Identification Cards as appropriate.

Gecom had advertised the vacancy last August, following the non-renewal of Gocool Boodoo’s contract on July 16, largely for an error in his handling of the 2011 general election results. Gecom, by majority decision, voted not to renew his contract, which had ended in April 2013. While PPP-nominated commissioners voted to retain Boodoo, opposition-nominated commissioners voted not to renew Boodoo’s contract. Chairman of Gecom Dr Steve Surujbally cast the deciding vote against Boodoo, breaking the deadlock.

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