PPP/Civic observer attests to discrepancies uncovered in audit

Stabroek News
December 2, 1999

An observer for the PPP/Civic yesterday testified at the elections petition hearing and confirmed notes made in his report to the effect that, in one instance, used ballots had not tallied with the number of actual ballots cast.

In fact, according to the notes of Coordinator of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Joseph O'Lall, of the ballots in a particular ballot box, 290 had been used while the actual ballots cast were 365 for the general elections and 361 for the regional.

O'Lall, testifying before Justice Claudette Singh and under cross-examination by Peter Britton, SC, counsel for the petitioner Esther Perreira testified that no member of the Elections Commission had explained this discrepancy in numbers.

O'Lall had also testified on Tuesday, under cross-examination by Britton's associate, Raphael Trotman, that a great portion of the statements of poll (SOPs) relied on in the audit process had been photocopies.

In yesterday's session, Britton asked O'Lall to read aloud selected comments from his records made during the audit process, while he was monitoring the work of the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC). The GEA head conceded that the CAC had uncovered SOPs and voter ID cards in ballot boxes.

This was contrary to what O'Lall said was his understanding of the electoral process, namely that SOPs should be placed in an envelope and given to the deputy returning officer (DRO), while ballot boxes should be placed in bags for this purpose and also given to DRO.

O'Lall also testified that, in one case, a number of ballots which should have been placed in a certain envelope were not recorded and in other instances no counter foils had been in the box.

O'Lall's notes also recorded that at one time, Dennis Smith, a member of the CAC had been unwilling to check some rejected ballots when asked.

The PPP/Civic observer had also recorded that some ballot boxes had been unsealed while others had two seals in addition to padlocks and that yet others had had padlocks which had to be cut open by the team after no key was discovered or the discovered key was found to be useless.

In relation to the ID cards, O'Lall's notes revealed that bags containing ID cards, most of which were locked, had been found in some ballot boxes. Others were in envelopes and O'Lall also related that some had been outside these envelopes.

In one instance, two such bags were in a ballot box while, conversely, in other boxes, no ID cards had been found.

Questioned about his role in the audit process, O'Lall said that he had written down figures called out by the team but had also counted along with them to arrive at the figures.

O'Lall will return to court today when he will likely face cross-examination by Rex McKay, SC, and re-examination by Doodnauth Singh, SC, counsel for Desmond Hoyte and the Chief Election Officer (CEO), respectively.

Hoyte and Singh are among the 11 named respondents to the elections petition brought by Perreira, who is challenging the 1997 elections on the grounds that the process was so flawed that it cannot be said to accurately reflect the will of the electorate.

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