E-vote system storage cost hits e182,000
Published 02/04/2010 | 05:00
STORAGE costs for the now-defunct electronic voting machines cost the taxpayer €182,000 last year, and another €12,000 has been spent on a website that demonstrates how to use them.
The Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told yesterday that the total cost of the development and roll-out of e-voting now stands at €54.61m. The Government decided not to proceed with electronic voting last April.
And the Department of the Environment has now admitted that any hopes of selling the machines internationally have been hit because countries were increasingly choosing a "paper-based" voting system, and both Holland and Germany have ditched e-voting.
Ironically, the then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern criticised "the silly old" existing procedure that used "stupid old pencils" when the system was being introduced in 2004.
However, Geraldine Tallon, secretary general of the department, said yesterday that the machines would nonetheless be put out to public tender to "gauge" interest internationally and domestically.
"I would suggest you cut your losses -- it is in the scrap-makers' journal that you should be advertising in," PAC chairman Bernard Allen said.
The Dutch-made gadgets were launched to great fanfare six years ago, but never used. Similar machines in the Netherlands were shown to be susceptible to tampering from hackers, and the Irish machines were quickly put into storage.
Some 4,762 e-voting machines were moved from 12 local storage locations to a central facility at Gormanstown army camp in 2007, with the remainder -- more than 2,700 -- continued to be stored at a number of premises across the country.
Storage costs have fallen from €658,000 in 2004, Ms Tallon said, but she also confirmed that a returning officer in Cork was in receipt of €45,500 in 2007 for storing some of the machines.
Meanwhile, the website www.electronicvoting.ie remains in place, and Ms Tallon maintained that "it continues to have hits". Mr Gormley has said that it will assist the taskforce in disposing of the equipment and ending storage arrangements for the machines, and would then be taken down.
It cost over €40,000 to design in 2004, and that bill has since risen to over €52,000 due to "maintenance".