GECOM on track with elections readiness – Commissioner
…urges Finance Minister to release funds in timely manner
As 2019 comes to an end, Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission on Friday met with President David Granger to brief him on their state of preparedness, where funding for the polls was also put on the frontline.
Some $8 billion was approved for the hosting of elections— to which a large fraction still remains unused.
After leaving the Ministry of the Presidency, Opposition-nominated Commissioner Bibi Shadick explained that GECOM is on track with activities leading up to the March 2020 polls. She further went on to say that the Secretariat has sufficient funding for the entire process.
“Just to ensure whether we’re on track with elections and we are. We have money but we just wanted to make sure that the Finance Minister will give the money when we ask for it in a timely manner,” she positioned.
Nevertheless, Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander acknowledged that the availability of these resources will not be an issue.
“We’re advised by the executives that that should not be a problem,” he told the media shortly after the engagement.
Opposition-nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn added that mechanisms would be installed to ensure that the process for disbursing the monies will be done expeditiously when signalled by GECOM.
“He (the President) was basically assured that we’re on line. There was the question of money. It was pointed out that the money should be available in any event and requests for any approvals through the Ministry of Finance should be dealt with expeditiously,” Benn informed.
For this meeting, a plethora of senior Government ministers would have attended to hear the preparedness of GECOM and areas which were of concerns. But Finance Minister Winston Jordan, whose Ministry is responsible for supplying the resources, was absent.
On the issue of finalising the voters’ list, the Commissioners insisted that the Secretariat will continue to meet until there is a final decision. So far, officials of GECOM would have been meeting for several weeks with the hopes of reaching a consensus.
“We have had not a detrimental delay, but some delays in terms of finalising the material for the revised list of voters. In an attempt to deal with that matter, we are meeting as necessary so we met today (Friday) and we’ll meet tomorrow,” Commissioner Alexander shared.
Earlier this week, it was announced that over 6500 persons of the 16,863 ‘new’ registrants were not confirmed during the five-day field verification exercise which concluded last Sunday.
Figures released to the media on Monday show that Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) had the highest number of unconfirmed persons, which tallied to 3657.
According to GECOM, there were 16,863 ‘new’ registrants but only 10,329 were confirmed.
Opposition-nominated Commissioner told this publication last week that field officers who conducted the verification exercise of “new registrants” captured during the scrapped House-to-House (H2H) Registration process have found empty lots at the addresses on record for those persons.
He told <<< Guyana Times >>> that they were informed by the party’s scrutineers who worked along with the GECOM staff during the exercise that there were instances where they went to the addresses to verify the names and were met with empty lots.
Benn indicated that the Commission had a meeting on Monday and they were updated on the five-day verification exercise. However, he said the information provided was not “very helpful”.
Some 370,000 registrations obtained during the scrapped $3 billion H2H exercise, which ran from July 20 to August and was objected to by the Opposition, were sent overseas to be cross-matched with the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) in order to filter out the duplicates.
However, it was recently reported that international digital security company, Gemalto, indicated that some 37,300 were new registrants who are eligible for voting, that is, they are above the age of 18. But an internal check conducted by GECOM showed that approximately 17,000 of those “new registrants” were already on the voters’ list and some even voted in the past.
The remaining “new names” were up for further verification. Recently, it was reported that the Government-nominated Commissioners were pushing to have a sample survey done from a sample size of 10 per cent from the 20,000 to verify these new names before they go on the voters’ list – a process which the PPP Opposition had objected to.
Last week, GECOM Chair Retired Justice Claudette Singh cast a tie-breaking vote to have a field verification exercise of all names listed as new registrants.