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Saturday 20 September 2014

Task force fails to curb rising costs of €55m e-voting fiasco

Patricia McDonagh

Published 21/09/2010 | 05:00

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A GOVERNMENT group tasked with winding down the e-voting fiasco has met just five times since it was established.

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And the Irish Independent has learnt that despite the cost of storing the machines, the Interdepartmental Task Force has yet to receive a formal proposal on how they will be disposed of.

The revelation is likely to fuel anger at the mammoth cost of the project as taxpayers brace themselves for the harshest budget in decades.

The task force was set up in April of last year on foot of the announcement by Environment Minister John Gormley that the e-voting project would be scrapped.

To date, the development and rollout of the unused system has cost the taxpayer €54.61m.

Almost 7,500 Dutch-made e-voting machines were bought for €51m by the Government in 2004 with a view to using them in the local and European elections that year.

However, the plan was cancelled just six weeks before polling after the Independent Commission on Electronic Voting said it was not sufficiently satisfied with the system's accuracy and secrecy.

The commission, which was also set up at a cost of €250,000, said the State would be able to use the machines -- but only if it spent €28m modifying them.

The Government refused to do this and as a result the machines have been left to gather dust in storage at a cost of almost €3m to the taxpayer.

Storage

Some 4,762 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 -- stored at premises across the country.

Storage costs in these premises cost the taxpayer €182,000 last year and it is estimated that this year's figure will be in the same region.

The Interdepartmental Task Force was established to bring the project to an "orderly conclusion". The group, chaired by the Department of the Environment and comprising nominees from the Department of Finance, Office of Public Works and Department of Defence, was to oversee the disposal of the equipment and termination of storage arrangements.

However, no major progress has been made while storage costs escalate.

The first meeting was held on July 2 last year, followed by a meeting on November 6 and another on November 26. The next meeting was not until March 16 this year and the last was on June 10.

"The task force has been giving detailed consideration to all relevant factors," said a Department of the Environment spokesman. "This has included contact with the original suppliers of the machines.

"While proposals have not been invited in respect of the equipment, some expressions of interest have been received."

The Department of the Environment said no date has been set for the next meeting.

Last night Fine Gael Environment spokesman Phil Hogan said it was "outrageous" that the Government had not yet disposed of the project.

Irish Independent

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