THERE has been ongoing reportage on the GECOM imbroglio. The commissioners’ interviews and press conferences have been significant sources of the reportage. As a commissioner, I am hereby taking this opportunity to pen my views on the matter of GECOM’s preparedness, rather than leave it to what is culled from interviews, to convey my thoughts on this critical matter.
In doing so, I would essentially critic the joint submission of Commissioners Shadick, Gunraj and Benn to GECOM, which is dated March 8th 2019, and was dispatched to me by the Chief Elections Officer, on March 11th 2029.
The first proposition of those Commissioners is that Nomination Day should be 40 days prior to the elections. I challenge those Commissioners to show how all that is required, in preparation for elections between Nomination Day and ‘E’ Day, can be achieved in 40 days, including the preparation of the ballot templates; the dispatch of the templates and the printing of the ballot papers overseas; the shipment and receipt of the printed ballot papers from overseas; the packaging of the ballot papers for in excess of 2200 polling stations; and their dispatch to those polling stations, not to mention that the Discipline Services balloting has to be done in advance of E Day and time has to be set aside for the correction and re submission of the nominations after they would have been scrutinized. I also note that that proposition does not cater for any form of claims and objections which has always been an integral exercise in the preparation for elections, a position that Commissioner Benn has previously championed.
Their second proposition is that parties, new and old, be given ten days to do candidate identification, documentation and submission. Their third proposition is that the training of polling day staff should be undertaken in 42 days, including the advertisement for and the recruitment of potential staff for training. They have also suggested that the teachers who are the majority of such potential staff, should be taken off of their jobs for training, albeit that many of those teachers are currently involved in the preparation of their pupils /students for Grade 6 and CXC examinations. They had previously suggested that the teachers could have been trained during the Mashramani period when they were supposedly not meaningfully engaged since their assignment to supervise the children`s engagement, the celebration of the anniversary of the Republic was frivolous and time- wasting.
I reserve my comment on their proposal that the procurement procedures be waived as GECOM undertakes the multi-billion dollar exercise.
I also note that they have suggested that GECOM`s Public Relations office undertake the civic and voter education function, even as they refuse to facilitate the appointment of a civic and voter education manager.
On the matter of financing, they selectively quote the law and distort the constitutional provisions that specifies “Each entity shall manage its subvention in such manner as it deems fit for the discharge of its function subject only to CONFORMITY with the financial practices and procedures approved by the National Assembly to ensure accountability.” (Author`s emphasis). The Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act no. 4 of 2015, section 7 states: “The Annual budget of a Constitution Agency approved by the National Assembly shall not be altered without prior approval of the National Assembly.” It is this provision that nails their misinformation and misrepresentation, to wit that GECOM can and must use the monies allocated for house-to-house registration to conduct the elections. In furtherance of this ill-founded position, they further postulate that the Finance secretary’s last paragraph of his response: “Accordingly, the Office of the Finance Secretary has no ‘locus standi’ in the matter” to mean that he has rendered no advice.
What the Secretary simply meant, after referring to the relevant provisions of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, was that his office was not a point of intervention in the process, for example, his office could not direct that the funds be redirected from house-to-house registration to elections.
While it is true that there is a live list, it is also true that the life of that list, as already pinpointed above, will not provide adequate time for the processes that are essential for the conduct of elections, more so credible elections. It should also be noted that the said list was intended to be subjected to a claims and objections exercise, commencing December 2018 and was, therefore, never intended to be used in its present form, albeit live.
Thus, its use without claims and objections would be tantamount to the disenfranchisement of those who became 18 years of age subsequent to October 2018, which was the qualifying date for inclusion on the current list. It is anticipated that this would affect at least 7000 registrants, plus others who would have attained the age of 18 after October 2018. It should also be noted that no regard or attention is being paid to the bloated state of the list with close to 200,000 dead and non-resident Guyanese still being on it, a state of affairs that is intended to be corrected by house-to-house registration, which is overdue by two years, was not conducted in two years for the want of funds, which funds have now been allocated in the 2019 budget.
Ironically, those commissioners did not avail themselves to discuss their own proposal, since they choose to leave the last meeting of the Commission before that agenda item, under correspondence, came up for discussion. They, however, proceeded to tell the Nation that all that was being discussed was house-to-house registration. Suffice to say that house-to-house registration is not antithetical to the holding of elections as provided for in article 106(7) of the Constitution. In the meantime, their cry is that a crisis is looming, which crisis seems to be engineered either by their machinations or intent.