Gocool Boodoo, the former Chief Election Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) says that there was nothing “irregular” about his tabulation of the results of the 2011 general elections and an Organisation of American States (OAS) observer overlooked all that was being done.
“For the entire period leading up to the declaration, the OAS had a representative at my desk overlooking all that was being done and there was nothing ‘irregular’ since Commissioners were also present,” Boodoo said in a letter published today in Stabroek News.
It was his first public statement on the furore that has swirled since the 2011 general elections.
“I note all the rantings about change in formula and manipulation of numbers, etc. This is a clear attempt to discredit me so that Commissioners would not support my retention. Nevertheless, it did not work as was expected, since those who were aware of the facts could not have been moved,” he said.
After months of controversy over whether his contract should be renewed, GECOM on July 16 took a majority vote not to renew Boodoo’s contract as CEO. Stabroek News was told that Chairman of GECOM Dr Steve Surujbally voted with the opposition commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Sandra Jones against the renewal of Boodoo’s contract. The three commissioners appointed by the government, Dr. Keshav Mangal, Mahmood Shaw and Jaya Manickchand, had voted in favour of a renewal and this led to a deadlock which was broken by Surujbally.
Boodoo’s contract expired on April 30, 2013. However, he went off the job days before his contract came to an end. His hopes of a contract renewal were deflated by explosive revelations the previous week by Alexander that the CEO changed a formula at the 2011 general elections which nearly erroneously handed the PPP/C a parliamentary majority. It was Alexander who detected the changed formula on the day the official results were to be announced. His objection caused the correct formula to be applied by Boodoo and the joint opposition ended up with a one-seat majority.
In his letter, Boodoo declined to address the matter in-depth saying that the OAS has made its position clear on this matter. “The fact of the matter is that the results presented to the Commission for ratification was what was presented to me by the Information Technology section,” he said in the brief part of his letter which dealt with the matter.
In its final verdict on the November 28, 2011 general elections, the OAS confirmed its original finding of a mostly smooth process.
However, in its report on the tabulation and processing of results, the OAS mission had noted that the vote counting and transmission process lasted for three days before the official declaration of results. “It is important to note that, while the OAS observation mission maintained a 24-hour presence in the tabulation center up to the time of the publicly scheduled declaration of results, the level of transparency and access to information was limited for the OAS observers,” the report had said.
The mission had pointed to several incidents which it said demonstrated the lack of application of uniform procedures. Among these were that the OAS teams stationed at the tabulation centre in Georgetown observed at least two envelopes containing statements of poll being delivered by an unaccredited and unescorted individual and on at least two occasions, statements of poll bypassed the system whereby the Commissioners examined them and were instead delivered directly to the manual tabulation process.
It had also noted that on November 29th, for about half an hour the reception procedure was reversed by the GECOM Chairman to institute the direct delivery of statements of poll to the manual tabulation process, prior to their verification by Commissioners.
“Prior to the declaration of results, the IT department was unable to finish processing all of the statements of poll, and 307 were not in the digital tabulation center’s system half an hour before the originally scheduled declaration of results. While the declaration of results is legally based on the information provided to the Chief Electoral Officer by the Returning Officers, corroborating the manual tally with that of the IT department prior to the declaration of results could have helped lend credibility to the process,” the report had further stated.
“The OAS mission considers it unfortunate that, following a generally well administered election up to and including polling day, this lack of uniform procedures and slow dissemination of results lent credence to concerns regarding the handling of the statements of poll and the final results,” the report had said.
Following Alexander’s revelations earlier this month, the opposition had strenuously opposed the retention of Boodoo as GECOM CEO. “Every day, there is someone referring to Boodoo’s action, in his preparation of the results of the 2011 elections, as a mistake. There was no mistake. Mr. Boodoo was singularly responsible for converting the vote count into seats. This was not his first exposure to the task. It was his third. There is only one formula for converting the votes into seats. How could it be a mistake if a factor in the formula is changed? There was no error of calculation. Sixty-five (65) replaced forty (40) in the formula. Let it be known that no calculations were presented to the Commission for scrutiny. Signed declarations were presented. There was nothing for the naked eye to discern. It was my academic knowledge of the system and my constant explanation of the system to students that equipped me to discern the false declaration (result). When challenged, Mr. Boodoo responded that he was right and was presenting the correct results,” Alexander had written in a letter to Stabroek News.
Hitherto, the near erroneous declaration for the November 2011 election was said by GECOM to be a mistake on the part of Boodoo. However, Alexander in his letter rejected this thinking and said that it was a change of one of the factors of the formula for allocating seats.