Sunday, 1 July 2012

Lessons on eVoting procurement, TAC and failure costs

The long running procurement fiasco of the Irish eVoting machines finally looks as if it has reached an inevitable unhappy conclusion.

By way of background, the Irish government spent €52m on 7,500 machines for eVoting then discovered it could be hacked into.   So 'the kit' has been sitting on the shelves  at a cost of €140k per year - not a great story when you think that the Irish haven't been short of elections, including whether or not to go with austerity measures.

But sitting on shelves wasn't straight forward either. The shed where some (255) of the voting machines were stored became the subject of a planning dispute as no planning approval had been gained for storage in the shed.  The shed in question had been leased for 25 years to store machines which only have a life span of 20 years - so  five years of storage beyond what you would have thought would have been required. The cost of storing those 255 machines therefore had a cost of over €500k.  As if that wasn't bad enough that contract smacked of nepotism.

Of course the public just can't be expected to know how to eVote so an awareness campaign was required.  Two ex-civil servants were contracted to deliver that campaign - they in turn were deemed entitled to €2m of their €5m contract for their costs away back in 2004,

The saga now looks like reaching an end. To the surprise of some, who thought the government would have to pay for their disposal, a tendering exercise has found someone to purchase the machines for €70k.  For the €70k they also get the privilege of also disposing the wasted 1,232 transport trolleys and the 2,142 hand trolleys - 22,387 items of scrap.  You don't have to be a maths whizz to see that there's a shortfall of the in  this procurement.

Lessons for the future worth considering may be:
  1. Pilot before a complete procurement;
  2. Consider renting if you're piloting;
  3. Share risk with the provider;
  4. Place the obligation with the provider for making sure the devices are secure and fit for purpose;
  5. Be squeaky clean and declare any potential conflict of interest;
  6. Don't contract for awareness raising campaigns until you know you need it;
  7. ...
We've discussed stupid sourcing in the past.  This looks like a real contender - let's put it to an e-vote!

Background reading:
Sunday Times, News Review of the Week, 'Top Stories from the UK and Ireland', 1 July 2012, p.8.

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