Major reconstruction of GECOM needed

Dear Editor,

It appears eminently appropriate that stakeholders, great and small (and any other size), should be concerned about the human resources employed by GECOM, in the hope, and indeed assurance, that the latter possess the relevant competence to discharge their assigned responsibilities in a neutrally professional manner.

That this belatedly has become a publicised issue makes for an unsurprising conundrum, if not confusion, as GECOM is composed of representatives of those who may be regarded as primary, if not the major, stakeholders.

These representatives are called Commissioners – equally disbursed between Administration and Opposition. It can therefore be extrapolated that one component of the Commission which is fully part of the decision-making process feels sufficiently confident in its judgement as to flout the interest of its sponsors; or at least does not understand the direction in which it is sent, and/or lastly feels satisfied with not only how it discharges its mandate in that it is profoundly committed to transparency.

But this would be too roseate a picture to contemplate, moreso against the backdrop in which, until recently, this group of Commissioners entertained a Chief Election Officer who, when eventually demitted office, migrated fluidly to the Office of the President, without the slightest taint of bias emanating. Then there was the former GECOM IT Specialist who reportedly, has ‘transferred’ his/her skills and institutional memory to Freedom House.

But while all these may be primary players, they are not in fact the major players, even though both groups of Commissioners are generally expected to be accountable for the obvious, and not so obvious, faultlines of GECOM.

One reason therefor is the practice of admixing the responsibility of the Commission with that of the Chief Election Officer.

Enough attention is obviously not paid to the Annual Estimates’ of the National Assembly abundantly distinctive separation of roles and responsibilities between the ‘Commission’ and its ‘Administration’, for which the law indicates is the sole responsibility of the Chief Election Officer.

It is therefore the performance of the latter’s ‘administration’ which merits more focused attention, and just possibly, ire.

But such faultlines do not compare with the very fundamental malconstruct by which GECOM continues to report to the Office of the President; instead of as a ‘Constitutional Agency’ (to quote again the 2014 National Estimates), to Parliament as provided by the Constitution – a fact ignored by stakeholders protesting over the absence of Local Government Elections.

Surely this organisational default is worthy of more active protestation.

The fact is that there is no stakeholder who can beat his/her breast with pride over the cons and pros which obtain in and may have become, GECOM.

For example not one stakeholder, and possibly GECOM as well, has heeded, and pursued action regarding the multiplicity of criticisms and recommendations from the various Observer Missions, going back to election 2006.

Else one or the other would have found that the Carter Center Observer Mission had prioritised, amongst its recommendations, the dissolution of the current model of representation on the Elections Commission, and its replacement by a more professional group of personages – a construct by no means uncommon within the Caribbean Region, and other Commonwealth Countries for example.

So that one supports the call for change – not only in respect of minutiae like appointments, but more comprehensively, in rehabilitating GECOM into a construct that speaks more to the professional division of labour; but equally urgently to the recognition and conduct of organisational best principles and practices.

In the final analysis it behooves every self-acclaimed stakeholder to prove his/her worth by agreeing to contribute to a major reconstruction of GECOM.

Yours faithfully,
Earl B. John

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