Controversial €55m e-voting machines to be scrapped

 

The Government has awarded a contract for the dismantling and recycling of the controversial e-voting equipment which has cost the state an estimated €55 million since 2002.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan announced this evening that the contract, which will involve a total payment of €70,267 to the State for the equipment, was today signed with Offaly-based form KMK Metals Recycling Ltd.

The Cabinet signed off on the decision to get rid of the 7,500 unused e-voting machines, in January.

“I am glad to bring this sorry episode to a conclusion on behalf of the taxpayer,” Mr Hogan said.

“From the outset, this project was ill-conceived and poorly delivered by my political predecessors and as a result it has cost the taxpayer €55 million.

“While this is a scandalous waste of public money, I am happy to say that we will not incur any further costs in the disposal of the machines.”

The company will pay the €70,000 sum for all the equipment, the Minister said.

Removal of the equipment from the present storage locations, and transport to the recovery facility by the contractor will start next week and will be completed by September.

“The storage costs of the machines were €140,000 per year for the past 3-years, and from next year we will not incur those costs any longer,” Mr Hogan said.

The company awarded the contract was the preferred bidder amongst seven tenders submitted.

Proposals were sought for either the purchase of the equipment or for its recovery as waste. Mr Hogan said no proposals were received for the purchase of the machines for re-use as an electronic voting system.

He said that taking account of the residual value of components contained within the electronic voting system and the potential to reuse some of the supporting items of equipment, the contract provided for a payment of €70,267 to be made to the State.

“I want to finally draw a line under the electronic voting project and to see that the equipment is disposed of properly,” he said.

“The recovery process will be carried out in line with national legislation and EU regulations on the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

“The electronic voting machines will now be dismantled. Whatever elements of the equipment can be reused will be reused.

“The cost of storing the machines has been a subject of particular interest and implementation of the disposal contract will now enable a line to be drawn under these arrangements in the coming weeks.”

The government agreed to buy the machines for €50 million after they were piloted in a number of constituencies in the 2002 general election and in the Nice referendum.

Dutch firm Nedap made the machines and public concerns in the Netherlands and Germany prompted the decommissioning of thousands of the machines in those countries.

Plans to use them nationally in the 2004 European and local elections were abandoned amid controversy over the system’s transparency and whether it was open to manipulation.

The equipment includes 7,500 voting machines; 154 programme reading units for uploading candidate details and for downloading the votes cast; 12,842 ballot modules for the storage of votes cast; 292 carrying cases; 1,232 transport/storage trolleys; 2,142 hand trolleys for moving the machines; 4,787 metal tilt tables on which the machines were placed in polling stations and 918 tray attachments for the tables.

Over 60 per cent of the electronic voting machines are stored at Gormanston Army camp where there are no ongoing rental costs for use of the property.

The remaining machines are stored at 13 premises around the country for which costs do arise, Mr Hogan said.