Audit report erratum admitted in evidence

By William Walker
Stabroek News
May 18, 2000

The erratum to the CARICOM Audit Commission's (CAC) report into the 1997 elections was admitted into evidence yesterday.

It was the fourth ruling in an epic battle between the two sides over the admissibility of the correction.

Justice Claudette Singh admitted the erratum which was sent to PNC leader Desmond Hoyte along with its endorsement signed by all the CAC members and a covering letter from CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington. Her reason for admitting the document was that Hoyte, in producing the document following a notice to serve, had knowledge of its contents. She noted in passing that the erratum on the face of it had not been endorsed, but admitted the endorsement because of CARICOM official Joseph Farrier's testimony that he had been involved in its formulation. Also admitted was a list of contact numbers for the seven CAC commissioners.

The erratum, signed by CAC Chairman Ulric Cross reads: "I wish to correct an error in the first paragraph of page 29 of the report of the CARICOM Audit Commission.

"The figures appearing in the table at page 29 were from an earlier computer print out and did not include additional ID cards captured later in the process. The statement in the report therefore that 'a significant number of electors voted without ID cards' is incorrect. Not all sourced documents were put into the computer. The figure for ID cards for Region Six is approximately 69,000 instead of the approximate figure of 42,900 mentioned in the report.

"In the light of that fact the final paragraphs should read as follows: A test count of ID cards was carried out in regions Two, Four, Six and Seven. The results of this count revealed that not all the voter ID cards could be found and thus meaningful attempts to reconcile voter ID cards with ballots cards proved futile.

Detailed information can be examined in the statistical appendix related to the 1997 elections, which is available in the library of the CARICOM Secretariat.

"The error is regretted."

The endorsement reads: "The text of the Erratum to Report of the CAC issued on 4 June 1998 by the chairman of the CAC is hereby endorsed by the undersigned members of the above mentioned commission. Justin David, Dinanath Gajadhar, Carol Jerome Horsford, Noel Lee, Frank Phillips, Denis Smith."

Carrington's letter to Hoyte reads: "I am in receipt of your letter of June 23, 1998 and apologise for the delay in submitting to you the other signatures authenticating the erratum to the Report of the CAC. However this information was only yesterday transmitted to us via facsimile from the office of one of the members of the Audit Team..."

Justice Singh also admitted into evidence the Audit of ID cards for Region Six, which prompted the erratum, on the basis that Farrier who had brought the document to court was the secretary to the CAC and had testified how the document was delivered to him after Cross had left the country.

But she ruled against the recount of the ID cards as argued for by Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran. In a lengthy ruling suitable to the lengthy arguments it engendered, she referred to decisions going back to 1910 in English Law that said "we are not entitled to read words into Acts of Parliament." Since the Validity of Elections Act had no specific mention of voter ID cards no legislation empowers the court to count them.