ALL the newspapers are fully decorated with seven prominent vacancies that are at the Guyana Elections Commission. It is amazing to know that this prestigious and very powerful organisation is so depleted and now desperately needs to set up a fit and proper secretariat.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is responsible for the run off of ‘free and fair elections’ at any time when such elections are due. Local Government Elections are due to be held this year 2021, and the government of the day allocated money in the 2021 budget for the holding of the LGEs. Hence, our people must demand that Local Government Elections be held at the earliest opportunity.
While the Commission had to dismiss the Chief Election Officer and the Deputy Chief Election Officer, it must be noted that the other vacancies came about because of serious allegations and questions surrounding the performance of GECOM. The vacancy for the assistant chief election officer, the logistics manager, civic and voter education manager, legal officer and chief account are all crucial vacancies that must be in operation for the smooth running of the Commission. However, this nation would like to know that persons who were in their well paid jobs are not there presently.
Former GECOM Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield is before the courts for fraud and other serious charges. He was properly dismissed and removed from the Guyana Elections Commission. It is indeed sad to know that Lowenfield, after struggling for his survival and was fully aware that he was on his way out of GECOM, he went and renewed his personal assistant, Duarte Hetsberger’s contract for a further three years.
Hetsberger contract was due to expire on the December 8, 2021. Accordingly, to standard procedure, Hetsberger was supposed to put in writing a request to renew his contract three months before his contract expired. It is utter nonsense and total disrespect to the Commission and the Chairperson in particular, for Lowenfield to renew Hetsberger contract six months before the time. All employment must be done by the Commission and not by Lowenfield. All contracted workers must apply for the renewal of their contract and there must be the necessary evaluation before the renewal is facilitated.
Let us make it crystal clear that the serious queries that were made by the Auditor General Office in respect to the 2015 General and Regional Elections are yet to be cleared. The 2016, 2018 Local Government Elections were not audited, while the 2021 General and Regional Elections are awaiting to be audited. This nation is fully aware of all the phantom staff who were paid, we are fully aware of the many contracts that were introduced and made in hotel rooms.
It is imperative that Chief Justice (r’td) Claudette Singh, Chairperson of GECOM must make bold decisions and get down to serious work in preparation for Local Government Elections. With all the talk of democracy at this time and the tremendous development that we are witnessing in the country, we must have Local Government Elections so that our people at the grassroots level could participate in the development of our country.
Justice Claudette Singh and the elected commissioners must get down to serious work and cleanse the corrupt elements who are remaining at GECOM. Down with corruption!