THE GOVERNMENT has admitted it has not received any “serious offers” to buy the 7,000 electronic voting machines it bought in 2002 – and will have to dispose of them.
While the Department of the Environment told the Irish Times it had received about 20 submissions from people interested in taking control of the equipment or finding alternate uses for the equipment, nobody had made any formal offer to purchase the machines.
Two of the offers, it said, were from other government departments: the Department of Education wanted to use it for CSPE classes for Junior Cert Students, while the Department of Social Protection wanted to transform the terminals into “information portals”.
Neither inquiry found, however, that the machines would be fit for the purposes intended, while all other contacts were “general in nature” and did not constitute genuine offers.
As a result, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told the Dáil this morning that the failure of the machines was a “great disappointment“.
“The question of their disposal is under consideration, but it is true that that is a loss to the exchequer and obviously it is a great disappointment in that respect,” he said.
The machines were used in three constituencies in the 2002 General Election – two in Dublin and one in Meath – on a trial basis but were found to be open to manipulation in subsequent tests and the scheme was put on hold.
Last year, environment minister John Gormley said the plans would be abandoned.
The machines were purchased for IR£40m eight years ago, and €3m has been spent on storing the machines while they remained unused. They are now worth about €30m after eight years’ depreciation.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore condemned the decision to house the machines for so long, saying the 50c prescription charge introduced earlier this month would take two years to recover the cash lost on storing them.