GECOM chairman voted against Vishnu Persaud based on ‘phantom documents’ – ERC report

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Justice James Patterson, the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), voted against hiring Vishnu Persaud as Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) based on his conclusion that he was “shifty” and lied about his qualifications; but the chairman provided no proof to back up his claims.

This is according to the final report by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) into the investigation of employment practices at GECOM and the appointment of Roxanne Myers. The report was tabled in the National Assembly last Friday.

“Retired Justice Patterson’s failure to produce the documentation on which he based his conclusion that Mr Persaud was an unsatisfactory candidate has grossly discredited his finding concerning Mr Persaud’s shiftiness, unreliability and dishonesty,” the report stated.

During an interview with the ERC’s sub-committee carrying out the investigation on September 6, 2018, the Chairman had promised to provide the documentary evidence to support his opinion on Persaud; the investigation ended on November 28, 2018, but no evidence was provided by the Chairman.

“To the extent that Justice Patterson’s vote against Mr Persaud was based upon the phantom documents, it was based upon an ephemeral foundation which was never produced before the sub-committee,” the report stated.

It added: “Throughout the course of this investigation the sub-committee found no evidence to suggest that Mr Persaud made any misrepresentation with regard to his qualification to the Commission (GECOM).”

Persaud was first appointed at GECOM on November 2, 2001, to the post of Public Relations Officer and functioned as the Personal Assistant to then GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally.

He was appointed the Deputy Chief Elections Officer on August 13, 2014, for a period of three years.

His contract was not renewed and the post was later advertised. Persaud applied and was interviewed for the position and scored 76 points, ahead of Myers, who scored 72 points.

When it came to a decision, there was a deadlock by the six commissioners and the Chairman cast the deciding vote to give Myers the job.

When the investigating committee interviewed the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, he revealed that it was the first time that the lower ranked candidate was hired above the higher ranked candidate.

The Chief Elections Officer said that he “directly prepared his (Persaud’s) performance appraisal and did not find any flaw in his performance.”

Lowenfield further asserted that if the Chairman were to ask anyone for a view of Persaud, the first person would be the CEO, because “sometimes Commissioners would have their personal views about staff.”

“I don’t know in this case, for example, if somebody personal view would have trumped someone’s professional competence,” Lowenfield is quoted in the report as saying.

The Chief Elections Officer was clear that he did not know “where the Chairman has his information that would inform him of Persaud’s shiftiness.”

Regarding the position of Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Lowenfield stated that the ideal candidate “would have been one who would have had working experience on the ground…because in their engagement they are part and parcel of our staff development.

“They understand the task ahead even though there is specialisation involved there so anybody who is involved there would have an advantage.”

The ERC team found that in addition to Persaud’s experience, “it also shows on paper” that he was “by far the most suitable candidate.”

“Nothing has been presented to us which, at least on paper, reveals any attributes in Ms Myers that were capable of offsetting the clear paper advantage which Mr Persaud enjoyed over his rival,” the report stated.

Four weeks before the meeting with the GECOM chairman, the ERC team pleaded with him to facilitate the production of GECOM documents.

The team also requested the appearance of key GECOM personnel and the chairman promised to assist.

However, Myers nor the Human Resources Manager, Marcia Crawford, made themselves available to the ERC team and neither did they submit any memoranda or written statements.

“MS. Myers know that her appointment was one of the principal subjects of the enquiry. She was aware that her qualifications and experience would be considered by the Sub-Committee.

“Ms. Marcia Crawford knew that the GECOM Human Resources Management protocols and procedures lay at the very heart of the enquiry.

“Their refusal to assist the enquiry by their presence or written submission amounted to a deliberate hobbling of the Sub-Committee in the production of an informed report.

“It can also be seen as putting their own personal interest above their public duty,” the report stated.

The investigating team concluded that “by all objective criteria, Mr Persaud was, on the available evidence, the most qualified candidate for appointment to the position of DCEO.”

 

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