Sep 11, 2016
-10-yr-old equipment obsolete, warranties not in effect
A state audit probe into a suspicious $100M purchase last year of communication radios by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has dragged in the manufacturer who over the weekend, said that it had ceased making the equipment since 2009.
The disclosures by the Australian-owned Barrett Communications, through its European office, would not only raise questions as to where Mobile Authority sourced the radios from, but whether GECOM officials, including its accountant and procurement personnel, conducted due diligence.
Not ordering from an authorized supplier or agent has implications on warranties and even spare parts, among other things.
GECOM is supposed to ensure that the equipment comes with the necessary warranties and even security of spare parts.
Investigators from the Audit Office of Guyana are currently probing the radio purchases which were delivered shortly before the elections, but apparently were never put to use.
GECOM has declined to comment, saying that the probe is ongoing.
There are questions whether the radios are even working.
Mobile Authority is owned by Water Street businessman, Michael Brasse. He has two other companies, which from all indications benefitted significantly from GECOM contracts for the May 11th elections.
Last year, Brasse’s businesses collected around $290M in payments for supplying items to GECOM, sparking suspicions of sole sourcing, a form of public procurement which has been heavily frowned on in recent times because of the possibilities of corruption involved in the process.
Barrett in its letter to Kaieteur News said that it was “disappointed” that its name had been associated with the probe into “suspected corruption” causing it to be portrayed in a poor light.
General Manager, Andrew Burt, said that the images published by the newspaper are of the older Barrett 2040 series, and in poor condition.
“The radios appear to have been stored in a manner which is not in accordance to industry standards. Along with improper storage, the radios appear as though they have not been maintained for operational deployment.”
With respect to the procurement for the 2015 Election, Barrett said that it did indeed tender through its local partner, Advanced Office Systems, for the supply of new radio equipment for the 2015 Guyana elections.
The radio purchases would be a major embarrassment for GECOM, which is tasked with management General and Regional Elections and Local Government Elections.
The Audit Office of Guyana started an investigation two weeks ago to determine the procurement procedures used and whether the radios can be accounted for. The audit is also to determine whether the equipment is working.
Shortly before the elections, on April 5th, 2015, Mobile Authority was paid $99,560,000. This was for HF radios.
From indications and GECOM’s insiders, Mobile Authority and its sister companies, M-Tech Business Solutions, and to an extent, Mibra Trading, received the hog’s share of contracts from GECOM for the May 11th, 2015 election – some $290M.
Payment records from Government suggest that some amount of contract-splitting was involved, so as not to alert auditors and others who would have been watching.
Brasse appeared to be a preferred supplier for stationery for GECOM. He also delivered items such as toners, office furniture and equipment, photo paper and scanners, printing accessories, and even Duracell batteries.
Payment records would indicate that there was some amount of contract-splitting at GECOM – a practice where contracts are deliberately kept below a certain amount so it does not have to go to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board.
In addition to supplying things like photo paper, stationery and office furniture, Brasse even ventured to delivering electrical items.
His transactions eased to a trickle after the elections when a new Government, under President David Granger, took office.
With regards to the radios that were delivered, there are indications that while GECOM had asked for 50 HF radios, it received 20 of those obsolete Barrett radios and 30 of what is known as ICOM radios.
Assuming that each Barrett radio that was delivered last year cost $2M each, it appeared that GECOM paid at least seven times the purchase price for each ICOM radio.
The ICOM radio is available on the local market for around $300,000 each.
A list of questions had been sent to GECOM’s public relations department, but the entity had said the state audit was ongoing and it would not comment.