New chief election officer to be named today

The Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) yesterday interviewed the four shortlisted candidates for the post of Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and a decision on who is the successful applicant will be announced later today.

“The interviews were conducted today and will be evaluated… by tomorrow afternoon we would know who the chosen person is,” Gecom Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally told Stabroek News yesterday.

The candidates are acting CEO Calvin Benn and his acting deputy Keith Lowenfield, former Jamaica Elections Director Danville Walker and United States-based Guyanese Savitri Singh.

Walker and Singh were interviewed via Skype while Benn and Lowenfield faced the seven-member commission in person.

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.

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.

Given the political polarisation that has in the past cropped up among commissioners, who could become the next CEO could very well be decided by 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, 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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