Spanish firm blamed for chaos at count

Spanish firm Indra was yesterday blamed for the farcical scenes that marred Breckland's election count in May. During a scrutiny committee meeting to investigate how the election trialling electronic counting unfurled into a fiasco, councillors repeatedly held Indra responsible while praising the returning officer, who oversaw the process.

Spanish firm Indra was yesterday blamed for the farcical scenes that marred Breckland's election count in May.

During a scrutiny committee meeting to investigate how the election trialling electronic counting unfurled into a fiasco, councillors repeatedly held Indra responsible while praising the returning officer, who oversaw the process.

John Gretton said: "This was the worst experience for us all in the history of our local council careers. I would like to praise the returning officer. He behaved in a very professional manner under very difficult circumstances. Elections are always very tense times but no one else from this council was to blame here. I hope the election commission are not going to pay Indra. The company did not carry out the service they were supposed to. It worries me public money will be put in their pockets."

The count in Breckland district was plagued by problems leading to the electronic count being abandoned for a manual one. The final votes were counted more than 100 hours after polling stations shut.

In a damning report by the Electoral Commission, while some of the blame was laid at the feet of the government for not allowing enough time for Breckland and other councils trying out electronic counting of votes to prepare and test the system, it also said the council had not removed ballot-paper information from scanning machines.

Yesterday, members of the scrutiny committee refuted the report, saying the council had done everything it could and it was Indra's errors they were left to clear up.

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The company has so far declined to comment.

Keith Gilbert said: "They are supposed to have successfully carried out hundreds of elec-tions in different countries. I would like to speak to them and actually find out how all the other ones went. If they have all this experience, how did they not foresee such basic errors that happened, happ-ening? How come it happened to us but no one else?

"Weeks of training took place here, we did everything we could. Indra just refuse to accept any blame. Their report was a case of 'it wasn't us, guv'. It blamed everybody involved in the process but themselves. If they had looked at the problems as systematically as they did apportioning blame, they would have realised the problems with the system."

In summing up the interim report, councillor Robert Kybird said: "A manual traditional count is a core part of English democratic process and should not be changed in any way."

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