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€55m e-vote machines may be too old to sell

THE €55m e-voting fiasco could become even more expensive because the machines may now be too old to sell.

The Government last night admitted it might be forced to pay someone to dispose of 7,500 machines languishing in storage for the past decade.

The reason is because the machines are so out of date that finding a buyer may be impossible and they would have to be disposed of at great expense.

The Department of the Environment yesterday sought expressions of interest for the 'sale or recovery' of 7,500 machines and associated equipment including cases, storage trolleys and tables.

Ideally, officials want a company to buy the lot and ship them abroad for reuse or recycling, but the fact that they are 10 years old could mean there is no interest and a specialist contractor would have to be paid to dispose of them.

"The decision has been taken to scrap them and we cannot keep paying storage costs indefinitely. They have to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner," a department spokesman said.

"The purpose of this tendering process is to see if we can get some economic benefit. If we can't, we have to make a call on how to get rid of them.

"We may have to pay to dispose of the machines, but we will wait and see what comes out of the tendering process first. It's important we try to get some economic benefit from them."

The Government hopes to get rid of the machines, which are associated with former Fianna Fail ministers Noel Dempsey and Martin Cullen, by the summer, and tenders must be submitted by March 15.

It's hoped that another country using e-voting or planning to use the system may buy the equipment, but there's no guarantee the machines will work.

"Information contained in the functional specification and tender documentation . . . does not provide a guarantee as to the functionality of the equipment, or guarantee that it will function in any manner described," the tender documents state.

"The electronic voting machines and all other equipment will be sold as seen and the contracting authority cannot accept any responsibility as to their quality or condition."

The total cost of e-voting so far, including purchase price and storage, is nearing €55m. The State spends €145,000 a year storing them.

About three in five of the machines and equipment are stored at Gormanston Army Camp. The rest are stored in 13 facilities around the country. Most of the premises are on short-term leases, which won't result in fines to terminate.

The machines do not come with software to operate as voting equipment, and the department cannot give a detailed breakdown of their make-up.

This means that companies that decide to buy the equipment with a view to selling the metal and plastic as scrap will also have to guess how much the components might fetch on the market.

A decision is expected eight weeks after receipt of tenders.

Irish Independent