OPED|Appointment of  Vishnu reeks of partisan bias

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By Vincent Alexander
Commissioner of GECOM

Friday, December 10, 2021 will go down in the annals of GECOM as another occasion when GECOM failed in its responsibility to embrace transparency and best practices. Its decision to appoint Mr. Persaud reeks of partisan and bias pre-dispositions, which I will expose in this letter.

Having ventilated on this matter during the process, it was not by intention to comment on the travesty which prevailed on December10, 2021. The Chairperson`s rare and swift Press release coupled with Bisram`s letter to the Editor calls for a response with the facts that will confirm that it was a travesty.

The Chairperson and Bisram studiously avoided the question of qualifications in the Ruling and Press Release, and letter to the Editor respectively but sneakily remarked that Persaud is qualified for the job. That Persaud meets the basic academic requirement, on this occasion, for the job has not been contested. What has been ignored is Harrow`s superior academic achievements and job experience. Harrow has what may be referred to as a ‘B’gree while Persaud`s Masters could only be referred to as a ‘D`gree. He attained the equivalent of a 2.2 grade point average out of a possible grade point of 5.0. Most institutions, including those that Harrow attended require the attainment of a 3.0 grade point average out a possible 5.0 grade point average for the student to graduate. That the Chairperson steered clear of any reference to academic qualifications, in her Ruling, is therefore understandable, given her Ruling in favour of Vishnu Persaud. It should be noted that 30% and the highest of values in the evaluation guidelines was attributed to qualifications. Since this letter is not an argument for Harrow, I will not detail further his academic superiority, suffice to say that he has two Masters, one of which is a level 7 qualification that the United Kingdom Qualification Framework equates to a Masters. It should however be noted that Bisram also steered clear of academic qualifications in his routing for, and touting of, Vishnu.

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The Chairperson in presenting her Ruling and in her Press Release articulated that her decision was given after listening to the Commissioners. Indeed she had an opportunity to listen to the presentation of the Commissioners, however December 10 was the only occasion when the six Commissioners deliberated on the candidates` performance, after the interviews, including the content of their CVs. after which the Chairperson immediately read her Ruling. It is therefore disingenuous for her to infer that her decision took into consideration the presentations of the Commissioners. Whatever she heard could not have been factored into a Ruling that had already been scripted. This highlights my conclusion that the process was a travesty. It should be noted that the Chair had never previously delivered a ruling on any matter at the end of the session in which the Commissioners had deliberated on the matter.

A major plank of the Chairpersons Ruling, according to her, was the testimonial of the former Chairperson of GECOM, although It was brought to her attention that Persaud`s employment by GECOM, in 2001, was at the invitation of the former Chair. On that occasion there was no advertisement or interview as well as Mr. Persaud did not have the qualifications required for such a position.  No wonder he was, according to his own admission, “de facto Personal Assistant” to the then Chair. He also did not have the twelve years of experience as was specified in the Terms of Reference that was memorandized for the position by the then Human Resource Manager. In 2014, when Mr. Persaud was preferred for the position of Deputy Chief Election Officer he was once again chaperoned. The position required a person who had attained a bachelor`s degree. At that time he had attained a Level 5 qualification from a British Institution. The United Kingdom`s Qualifications Framework, equates a level 5 qualification to a Foundation Degree (a degree which qualifies one for advance standing in a bachelor`s programme). Mr. Persaud was preferred then for the job based on the contention of the then Chair that the level 5 qualification was equivalent to a Bachelors. Equipped with all of that information of him being chaperoned, the chairperson declared that the testimonial of the chaperon was a decisive factor in her determination.

The other travail to hand Mr. Persaud the job was the attribution of experience. Mr. Persaud has three years of senior managerial experience and operational involvement in two election as Deputy Chief Elections Officer. Prior to that he was ostensibly the PRO. Nowhere in the world is a PRO a line and staff position or senior managerial position. Also, an examination of GECOM`s job description, for the position of PRO, in no way describes its functions as managerial. Having unadvisedly insisted that “at least (10) years’ experience in a senior management position overseeing and directing diverse operations …. At least ten (10) experience in Management of National Elections and Election Systems is a prerequisite requirement” they contrived to attribute that experience to Mr. Persaud on the basis that he was PRO for 14 years; acted for the CEO in short stints in between elections; and carried out a voter education assignment.

I need not dismantle the other contentions in favour of Mr. Persaud. It is patently clear that he has neither the superior qualification nor the experience. Those are the essential criteria. He is being chaperoned for the third time. This reeks of a dysfunctional and corrupt system and explains why a neutral panel of human practitioners was rejected although it is a Best Practice in the field of Human Resource Management.

All of the aforementioned raises many questions about GECOM`s institutional arrangements and adherence to procedures. Not only were best practices shunned, there are clear indications that decisions may even have been made before the decision-making process had commenced and or concluded.



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