Lowenfield’s Assistant dismissed on suspicion he allegedly deleted data from GECOM computers
Months after he benefited from a premature three-year renewal to his contract as the Personal Assistant to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Duarte Hetsberger’s contract with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been terminated.
The News Room understands that Hetsberger is allegedly a prime suspect in the deleting of important data from computers within the GECOM Secretariat, a reprimand that some Commissioners have said is “mild”.
His dismissal was confirmed by GECOM Commissioners Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick but details on his infractions were not forthcoming.
The News Room was told that he will be paid his benefits in keeping with the clauses in his contract. The termination took effect on December 31, 2021.
Hetsberger’s alleged actions were only detected when the newly appointed CEO Vishnu Persaud conducted an investigation after taking up the post.
“He realised that several computers were wiped. Computers which were under the control of that officer… when the IT Department intervened the explanations, he provided, did not make sense according to the CEO’s report,” Gunraj told the News Room.
This investigation was done after Hetsberger was initially offered several opportunities for transfers and positions including that of Registration Officer.
Those were rebuffed but he could not be retained as a Personal Assistant having been hired by the now-disgraced former CEO Keith Lowenfield.
“When I read the report, the termination was a mild reprimand… his infractions had to do with interfering with the data on computers,” Shadick told the News Room.
The News Room understands that Hetsberger had reportedly rebuffed the offers for transfers having applied for three of the current vacant positions advertised by GECOM.
“I have no doubt if he is qualified for them, he will be interviewed,” Shadick added.
Importantly, his contract should have ended on December 8, 2021, but his contract was renewed following an evaluation done in June 2021 by Lowenfield, whose employment at the Commission was uncertain and he was in fact on his way out. With the renewal granted by Lowenfield, Hetsberger should have continued his employment with GECOM until December 2024.
Both Lowenfield and Hetsberger were being investigated by the police as part of their probe into allegations of fraud following the March 02, 2020, General and Regional Elections.
Hetsberger is a lieutenant in the Guyana Defence Force but was seconded to GECOM in 2014 on a one-year contract and then, after an amendment, on a ten-year contract that would be subject to renewal every three years.