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E-voting cost €850,000 last year

By Paul O’Brien, Political Correspondent (Examiner feb 2008))
THE taxpayer is continuing to pay dearly for the electronic voting fiasco, with another €850,000 bill incurred last year — despite the fact the machines aren’t even being used.

They definitely won’t be used in this year’s referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and critics of the system believe they will never be activated again.

The initial outlay on the e-voting machines was €51.3 million, a figure that included a €2.6m public awareness campaign.

They were used on a pilot basis in a small number of constituencies in the 2002 general election and the second Nice Treaty referendum that same year.

But a number of security concerns led to the machines being mothballed, and they have remained in storage ever since.

Returning officers in individual constituencies took responsibility for the machines, renting space to store them.

The storage bill has run into millions of euro — €658,000 in 2004, €696,000 in 2005, €706,000 in 2006 and €528,000 last year.

Last year’s bill was reduced slightly because the Government moved approximately 4,700 of the 7,504 e-voting machines to a centralised storage facility at Gormanston Army Camp.

But moving the machines cost €328,000.

This means the total bill for the machines in 2007 — between storage and transport — came to €856,000.

The available space at Gormanston is not big enough to hold all the machines, so the remaining 2,804 will be moved to a different facility.

The bills don’t end there, however. As well as the costs in moving the remaining machines, the Government will have to buy out the leases for some of the storage facilities which returning officers availed of.

The returning officers entered into different arrangements, ranging from monthly or yearly contracts to a two-year lease in Carlow-Kilkenny, 10-year leases in Kerry and Cork city and a 25-year lease in Cavan-Monaghan.

Environment Minister John Gormley said moving the remaining machines and buying out the leases would add to the bills.

"My department engaged consultants with valuation expertise in May 2007, following a competitive tendering process, to examine individual lease arrangements and to make recommendations as to termination of the leases, where appropriate. The consultants’ recommendations are currently under consideration in the department."