GECOM Chairman’s criticism of Auditor General ‘inappropriate,’ ‘disrespectful’ -PAC Chairman

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday deemed recent comments made by Guyana Elections Com-mission (GECOM) Chair-man retired Justice James Patterson about the Audi-tor General (AG) inappropriate and disrespectful.

“The AG’s office is independent, and should be allowed to be independent,” PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali stated, before adding that the PAC was confident that AG Deodat Sharma was capable of executing his responsibilities in a manner that befits his office.

The need to address the matter was raised yesterday at a PAC hearing by member Juan Edghill, who noted that the AG’s office had “come into severe criticism.”

Patterson was reported by the Kaieteur News as challenging Sharma to take “allegations of fraudulent procurement practices” at GECOM to the police.

It was previously reported by this newspaper that a special investigation by the Office of the AG into GECOM’s purchase of radio sets for the 2015 general elections revealed procurement breaches among a host of other problems and a recommendation was made for the police to be called in for an in-depth probe and criminal charges if necessary.

They were taken possession of just days before the May 11th, 2015 general elections and up to September 14th, last year, 88% of the sets were not yet in use.

GECOM then entered another arrangement with the United Nations Development Programme for the supply of 12 satellite phones on the grounds that “security reasons” prevented the use of the 50 radio sets on Election Day, Sharma’s final report said.

There were also questions raised about the procurement of cartridges, ink toners and pliers.

“GECOM… must be reminded that even though they have financial and operational independence, they are subject to the laws of Guyana which allows for the Auditor General at any given time to enter, record information, make pronouncements, carry out audits—whether forensic or general audits— and they are required to give full cooperation,” Edghill stated.

“…and in the execution of his duties, he is not subject to the direction and control of any other authority…I find that even today…with the dealing of City Hall, it looks like people feel that they’re doing the Auditor General a favour when they provide information. And this is something that the PAC must express a very strong view about. People must hold to the fact that we have laws governing this country, it is not a free for all. It didn’t happen in the past and I don’t see why it is happening now,” he added.

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