As a Commissioner of Gecom, who was referred to as “one who voted in favour of the said declaration and publication of the said results” in relation to which the Chronicle and Guyana Times carried articles on Sunday, May 24, 2015, which articles were sourced to a press release of Commissioners Mangar, Shaw and Gunraj, I find it necessary to respond, since the said news houses did not find it necessary or prudent to seek my comment on a matter that has more than one side or interpretation.
In response, I first wish to outline the system that was established for the transmission and tabulation of the results of the 2015 elections.
2299 results were to be determined at the places of poll and documented on statements of poll, copies of which were to be made available, immediately after the count, to the Presiding Officer, the Assistant Presiding Officer, the Counting Officer and the parties’ agents. Also, a copy was to be posted outside of the related polling station and enveloped copies sent to the Returning Officer (RO) via the Deputy Returning Officer and likewise a copy sent to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO). I am verily informed that this process was followed and am unaware of any complaint in that regard, from any quarter. The most critical point to note is that the three most relevant authorities (ROs, the CEO and the parties) should have been in possession of the original and identical statements of poll.
Two parallel counts were to be conducted: a count at the level of each RO, for the purpose of ten district/regional/constituency declarations and a count by the Information Technology (IT) unit after the statements bound for the CEO had been delivered to Gecom, signed off on by at least two present Commissioners and transmitted to IT for tabulation, after which they should have been transmitted to the CEO`s office for custodial purposes.
The CEO informed the Commission of his intention to conduct an independent tabulation, once the statements were delivered to his office, thus allowing him a comparator relative to the IT tabulation and the, eventually submitted, 10 declarations. The ten declarations were to be used as the bases for the CEO`s summative count; the calculation of the allocation of seats; and the presentation of a report to the Commission, for its approval, prior to the final declaration of results and allocation of seats.
In relation to what actually occurred, there has been no evidence or complaint that the statements of poll, which were delivered to the ROs, were corrupted. Each RO conducted a verification that involved the political parties and in no instance did the statements of poll used by the RO and those in the possession of the parties not correspond.
It is true that the PPP/C sought to question approximately 34 statements in the case of District 4, but in no instance did they present original statements of poll as the basis for their contention. They presented a spread sheet, which purportedly reflected the statements of poll in the PPP/C`s possession. In the specific case of District 4, they made those objections on Thursday through Friday and were requested to produce the evidence by Saturday, May 16. They returned to the verification process on May 16 without the original statements of poll, thus leaving the RO with no alternative but to make the declaration since the objection was not based on concrete evidence.
It was the CEO, whose statements of poll had passed through three different sets of officials before they got to him, who discovered corrupted/fake statements. Those statements were supposedly received, opened and recorded by Logistics; were signed off on by Commissioners; and data entered by IT before being delivered to the CEO. The CEO discovered documents that were not original documents. He also observed a disparity with the results on those documents as well as he observed some statements on which the votes cast were in excess of the divisional electoral rolls. To his credit, the CEO brought this discovery to the attention of the Commission where it was decided that a two-pronged approach was to be used in the circumstances. On the one hand, it was decided that he would abandon the use of statements of poll that were directed to him through Logistics, Commissioners and IT, in that sequence, and that he would resort to using the information from the ROs, which information would have been subjected to stakeholder scrutiny, primarily that of the political parties, for the purpose of determining the results. It was also agreed that the CEO would investigate the apparent corrupting of the system but not at the expense of delaying the production of credible results. It is on that basis that the CEO produced credible results that I and others felt comfortable with and approved.
The aforementioned responds to the central, critical and fundamental concerns raised by the three Commissioners in their press release and clears the air on the question of the credibility of the results, since the statements of poll originating from the ROs and eventually used by the CEO were not compromised or invalidated.
It should, however, be noted that the PPP/C requested partial recounts in 4 districts even before the CEO made his revelation about corrupted statements. Those recounts were done in the presence of stakeholders, including the PPP/C’s representatives and no differences with the recorded results were found. Subsequent requests for recounts, throughout the country, were denied on the ground that the verification process did not reveal any basis for such recounts, generally, and in the case of District 4, where objections were made, there were no evidential documents produced to justify the objections.
It should also be noted that a PPP/C delegation also met with Gecom and argued the same case that had been argued at the level of District 4. On that occasion, they presented their spreadsheet with information extracted from 21 of their statements of poll and 21 falsified results, which they claimed were used by Gecom to tabulate the results in the stead of what was recorded on the original statements of poll. Gecom verified that it had not used the falsified results and that there was no difference between what Gecom used and what was recorded on the statements of poll presented by the PPP/C. This finding was shown to representatives of the PPP/C.
I am also still to be advised of the legal provision that provides for Gecom to undertake recounts after recounts would have been requested at the stages prior to, and after, the ROs’ declarations.
None of the above negates the need for the ongoing determination of the abandoned system that was corrupted. That process is ongoing and I eagerly await the findings. The above, however, explains why the exclusion of reports, emanating from IT, became essential, since IT was a segment of the corrupted pathway. To insist on its involvement would only have established bases for discrediting an otherwise sanitized system. For all intents and purposes, the CEO produced electronic results based on the uncorrupted and verified information which he obtained from the ROs, and the manual report in the form of the actual district reports. It should be mentioned that the previous CEO did not present two reports (electronic and manual) in 2011. There was no objection from at least one commissioner who is now demanding that of the new CEO, although the CEO has fulfilled that requirement. It should also be noted that the information requested on May 20th is immaterial to the declaration. Similar requests in 2011 were denied the Commissioners by the then CEO, pending the Chairman’s approval, which approval was granted weeks after the declaration and the swearing in of the former President. Even those, when provided, were riddled with errors and subsequently withdrawn and reissued well into a month after the declaration and swearing in.
I am also reminded that the PPP/C or, as a matter of fact, any contestant has only one recourse at this time, which is to the court. In 2006 the AFC actually identified an error in the allocation of District 10 seats; brought it to the attention of the then CEO, Mr Boodoo, who acknowledged, accepted and undertook to make amends, which he never did, thus forcing the AFC to approach the court. The matter was subsequently thrown out on procedural grounds while the PPP/C for 5 years benefited from a seat illegally allocated.
Editor, it is my sincere hope that equal prominence is given to this letter as was given to the PPP/C nominated Commissioners’ press release in the Chronicle and Guyana Times.