The auditor-general has uncovered a raft of problems with the handling of the 2016 federal election.
In a report released today, the auditor-general recommended the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) adopt a higher level of compliance with security standards, greater competition in contracts and a better system to test data integrity.
The AEC was harshly criticised when 1370 ballot papers were lost at the 2013 election, resulting in an expensive fresh Senate ballot in Western Australia.
It has since upgraded its systems but the audit found seven transport supplier contracts – from outside its transport panel – for the 2016 election did not specify the need for ballot papers to never be left unattended.
However, it did find contracts with 10 panel contractors were satisfactorily explained.
The audit also found that while the AEC checked the political activity of suppliers, it didn’t seek assurances about the political neutrality of personnel delivering ballots.
When looking at a new computer-based Senate ballot paper scanning system, the auditor-general found not enough emphasis was put on achieving value for money in the procurement process.
Risk management was also highlighted as not being “consistently to an appropriate standard, while insufficient attention was paid to whether AEC systems had been compromised, it found.
The AEC’s conclusion that there had been no large-scale tampering of the 2016 Senate election data was correct, but the audit found it did not have “adequate visibility” of IT security measures.
The AEC had told the auditor-general it was unaware that any ballot papers were not accounted for, but the report found this to be a considerably lower level of assurance then the commission’s performance indicator of accounting for 100 percent of all papers.
The AEC has agreed to the recommendations, stating that the 2016 federal election was the “most complex in the nation’s history”.