My work as Deputy CEO at GECOM was never faulted, I have never misrepresented qualifications

Dear Editor,

 Kindly permit me space in your newspaper to respond to the article titled `Poor past …Alexander says Vishnu Persaud’s past performance sank him –Myers emerged the more qualified for top GECOM post’, which was published in the Guyana Chronicle June 14, 2018.

Before doing so specifically, it is pertinent that I note that, relative to my rejection for reappointment to the position of Deputy Chief Election Officer (DCEO), I had taken the position that I would not comment publicly on this matter, notwithstanding the negative blogs about me by persons with pseudonyms who do not know me nor of my professional record.

However, some inferences and statements contained within the above referred article dictates that I respond in an albeit futile attempt to undo some of the defamation and stigma that has now been cast upon me.

For the sake of clarity, context and relevance, the specific issues are documented herein in a manner in which responses are attached to individual identified comments attributed to Mr. Alexander.

The article opens by informing that “Former Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Vishnu Persaud was rejected for rehiring on the grounds of his past performance, his alleged history of faking his qualifications to the commission and the fact that Roxanne Myers has `better qualifications’ than him, a top commissioner at the electoral body has said”

 The article went further in attributing the following comment to Mr. Vincent Alexander, Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Com-mission: – “`He [Justice Patterson] objected to Vishnu based on past performance, based on the other candidate having better qualifications and based on the history of misrepresentation of qualifications to the commission,’ longstanding commissioner Vincent Alexander told the Guyana Chronicle”. 

Although the author acknowledged that the “newspaper has been unable to independently verify this,” the inability to verify defamatory comments should have mitigated against publishing them.  Apart from independent verification, I further posit that there was no evidence presented to suggest the aspersions casts against me were nothing more than the slanderous utterances of Mr. Alexander.  Further it is disturbing and disingenuous that the author notes the lack of verification of Alexander’s claims, but nonetheless, said defamation commands the headline of the article.

In addressing this comment I will break down my response to the three categories as follows: –

“He [Justice Patterson] objected to Vishnu based on past performance”

It is important to note that while the caption of the article opens with the term “poor past”, the body of the article addresses “past performance” without specifically indicating that my “past performance” was “poor”. 

However, whereas this comment suggests that my past performance is unacceptable or at the least questionable, there is absolutely nothing in the article to so substantiate.

 I joined the GECOM in November of 2001 in the capacity of Public Relations Officer (PRO) and worked continuously up to August 2017 – serving in the last three years as DCEO.

Throughout my tenure I was never cautioned, reprimanded, rebuked – orally or in writing – by Senior Management of the GECOM Secretariat or the Commission for failure to honour my responsibilities.

On the contrary, since about 2004 up to the end of my stint I was multi-tasking by carrying the responsibilities of additional substantive Offices.

In 2004, the person who was employed as Personal Assistant (PA) to the Chairman – a position on the GECOM organogram – was promoted to Logistics Manager.  The then Chairman from then onwards had me function as his de facto PA, which I did up to August 2014, when I was appointed DCEO.

Simultaneously, I was tasked with the responsibilities of Scribe to the Commission, since this responsibility was also being carried out by the Chairman’s PA.  I carried out this responsibility for about eight years with a short break when a Legal Officer was employed for a short period.

During my stint as PRO, in the run up to the 2011 General and Regional Elections, the Commission as well as political stakeholders complained severely that the Civic and Voter Education (C&VE) Programmes of the Commission were severely lacking.  Notwithstanding the C&VE function was vested in a substantive Manager in a designated position senior to PRO, the Chairman informed the Commission that he was tasking me with significant responsibility for the print and electronic media aspect of C&VE.  There was no objection at the level of the Commission nor Secretariat.  This can be substantiated from the Minutes of the relevant Statutory Meeting of the Commission.  I continued to carry this responsibility up to early 2014 when the C&VE Manager demitted office.  From then up to August 2017, I carried the totality of the C&VE responsibilities because no one was appointed to the vacant position of C&VE Manager. To date, the position remains vacant.

Following the 2015 General and Regional Elections, and in preparation for the 2016 Local Government Elections (LGEs), the Human Resources Manager (HRM) resigned.  This happened somewhere in mid-2015.  The Secretariat was deeply involved in the training of approximately 12,000 temporary staff for the upcoming LGEs.

Upon the resignation of the HRM, the Chief Election Officer assigned me responsibility for management of the Human Resource Division.  I carried this responsibility along with that of C&VE simultaneously with my substantive duties of DCEO up to the appointment of a substantive HRM at the beginning of 2017.  There was no additional pay and none was ever sought.

While I was DCEO, I acted in the capacity of CEO once, and “held the fort” several times for the CEO when he had to leave the office for a week at a time.  I was never cited nor censured for any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Naturally, I have seen all of the Performance Appraisals prepared for me by former Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally under whose direct supervision I worked up to August 2014.  There is nothing in any of those Appraisals that would suggest that I was lacking in any area of the regime of responsibilities with which I was tasked.

In view of the foregoing, I am at a loss to determine how my past performance could have led to my detriment.  I challenge anyone and specifically the Guyana Chronicle and Mr. Alexander to dispute the provable facts I have outlined above.

Other Candidate has Better Qualifications

This position was put forward without any comparison of the qualifications of the two concerned candidates specifically in relation to the criteria delineated in the advertisement for the vacant position of DCEO.

Under qualifications the advertised criteria asked for the following: –

A post graduate degree – it is confirmed that both of the concerned candidates have Masters Degrees. I have a Masters in Business Administration from the Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom.

Qualification in Elections Management – I have a Level 5 Certificate in Manage-ment & Leadership with specific expertise in electoral processes, which was issued by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) – UK through the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) – UK.

This is a successor qualification to the Professional Certificate in Electoral Processes which is conducted by the ICPS and in which I participated in London, UK. The Level 5 Certificate is equivalent to Higher National Diplomas (HND) in the UK

Additionally, I attended two Common-wealth Secretariat-conducted one-week training courses in Elections Management in New Delhi, India and Kingston Jamaica respectively.

Experience in the management of national elections – I was the substantive DCEO for three years, with responsibility for Operations, during which the 2015 General and Regional Elections and 2016 LGEs were conducted.

It is important to remind here that I also carried the full responsibilities of C&VE, and Human Resources to a lesser extent during my tenure as DCEO.

Also, I beg to submit that all of the responsibilities as described above speak to my knowledge experience in electoral processes.

 Excellent oral and written communication skills – I have a Diploma in Public Relations from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, and over 12 years’ experience as Public Relations Officer.

In view of the foregoing, I humbly request that facts be put forward to prove that the “other candidate has better qualifications”.   I gather that reading towards a PhD as documented in the article may be used as proof of a qualification not yet had?

History of Misrepresentation of Qualifications to the Commission

Whereas there is nothing to support this allegation, I need to make it pellucidly clear that at no time have I ever misrepresented my qualifications to the GECOM.  During Mr. Alexander’s ongoing tenure at the Commission I submitted applications with relevant CVs twice for the position of DCEO in 2014 and 2017 respectively.  On both occasions I presented to the Commission certificates in support of my qualifications documented in the respective CVs.  Should I have misrepresented myself in any manner, I submit that would have been sufficiently egregious a transgression to warrant my immediate dismissal with prejudice.  Let it be known, this was not done and I have no reprimand on my personnel file.

We all know the outcome of my application for appointment to the position in 2018.

In 2014, my appointment as DCEO flowed from a transparent recruitment process which involved (i) advertising the vacant position, (ii) receiving applications and shortlisting candidates, and (iii) the conduct of interviews by a panel comprising the GECOM Chairman, four Commissioners (two from both sides) and the Chief Election Officer. Please see https://www.stabroeknews.com/2014/news/guyana/08/14/new-deputy-chief-election-officer-appointed/

While I expect that the entire foregoing may not serve to adequately counter a headline and front page misrepresentation accredited to Mr. Alexander, which has already led to my defamation and personal degradation, I wish nonetheless to be on record that the statements are baseless, reckless, defamatory and malicious in their design.

Allow me to close this missive with the firm declaration that as the DCEO or any role held, I always conducted myself professionally, without fear or favour,  and without bias in any area or level of my responsibilities.  This was and will always remain the definition of my core as a human being and a professional which I will steadfastly defend.

Related Matter

I have noted an article in the Guyana Chronicle of yesterday (June 15, 2018) titled “Vishnu obtained Masters from a Training Centre”.  The article opens with the position that the Masters I hold is “actually a combination of elections related training courses which he obtained from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) and not an accredited University…”

This is an outrageous, malicious and outright lie, which is obviously aimed at discrediting my suitability for the position in question.

I do not have and I never claimed to have a Masters in Elections Management from the ICPS or any other Institution.

I read for and was awarded a Masters of Business Administration by the Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom.

I will respond in a separate letter for the third and hopefully final time to the accusation of alleged corrupt practices that was made against me.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Persaud

Former Deputy Chief Election

Officer

GECOM

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