Wednesday 17 January 2018

For sale: 7,500 e-vote machines, one careful state owner

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

The January sales will take a fresh twist today when the Government announces plans to either sell off or recycle and scrap 7,500 e-voting machines.

Ministers are expected to discuss plans to bring an end to the debacle that has cost the taxpayer €55m.

The Department of the Environment will publish advertisements to invite tenders for the sale of the equipment or for it to be recycled.

The Coalition is hoping to get rid of the machines, associated with former Fianna Fail ministers Noel Dempsey and Martin Cullen, once and for all, by the summer.

A vast array of equipment is up for grabs for anybody who wants it:

- 7,500 voting machines.

- 4,800 tables for the machines in polling stations.

- 900 tray attachments for the tables.

- 2,000 hand trolleys for moving the machines.

- 1,200 transport and storage trolleys.

- 150 gadgets for putting candidate details in the machines and downloading votes.

- 13,000 storage units for votes cast.

- 300 cases for carrying the storage units.

The machines can be upgraded, so there is a hope another country using e-voting or planning to use the system might buy the equipment.

But the storage of the machines continues to cost €145,000 a year, so the Government wants to cut its losses. "We want rid of them," a coalition source said.

The total cost of e-voting so far, including purchase price and storage, is nearing €55m. Over the past five years, the annual storage costs have dropped from €700,000 to €145,000.

About three in five of the machines and equipment are now stored in Gormanston Army Camp. The rest are stored in 13 facilities across the country. But most of these premises are on short-term leases and won't result in any fines to end the leases.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan is due to bring the proposal to the Cabinet's first weekly meeting to sign off on the tender for the disposal of the machines.

Mr Hogan set up a task force about a month after he came to office last year to look at what to do with the machines and it recommended a tender for either the sale of the equipment or for it to be recycled.

The request for tenders will be published soon, followed by 52 days to ask for proposals. At that stage, the task force will recommend what offer to accept. All told, it will take eight weeks to reach a decision.

The Government is not sure of the level of interest there will be on the international market for the machines.

Irish Independent

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