16 October 2018, Tue, 3:07

EC procures EVMs at 11 times higher than India's price

The election commission is going to purchase electronic voting machines (EVMs), with each costing 11 times higher than the price paid by India, project documents suggest.

The estimated cost of an EVM is shown at Tk 234,373, a price that stakeholders termed abnormally high.

India's election commission has quoted Rs 17,000 as the price of each EVM, according to the website of India EC. In taka denomination, it stands at only Tk 21,250.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) earlier made EVMs for the EC at a cost of Tk 20,000-Tk 22,000 each.

The gap in prices of EVMs is obviously high despite similarities in characteristics of EVMs purchased by India and being procured by Bangladesh.

The number of voters in each polling station in the two countries is almost equal while the literacy rate of voters and the level of awareness are similar, too.

The EVMs to be imported by Bangladesh can ascertain the identity of voters through biometric system or pressing of finger or smart national identity card. This facility is absent in the EVMs India bought.

Again, the EVMs purchased by India have facility of getting printout after voting or what is technically called 'voter variable paper audit trail' (VVPAT) which is absent in the EVMs being purchased by Bangladesh.

BUET professor SM Lutful Kabir, who led the project for making some 1,100 EVMs, said the price could be lower, if a large number of EVMs were made.

“It's unusual to purchase an EVM at a cost of Tk 234,000,” he told the media.

The BUET professor, however, gave his estimate that it is possible to make each EVM at a cost of Tk 40,000-45,000 with the facility of ensuring voter identity through finger print and VVPAT.

He also said it is difficult to compare the price in view of characteristics.

On its part, the EC authorities claim the price of procuring EVMs is low in terms of quality, and compared to those of other countries.

The EC's National Identity Card (NID) wing director general Md Saidul Islam said the price depends on quality of accessories and configuration of the machine.

The price of an EVM is about US$4,000 in America, he pointed out.

“EVMs are not purchased at higher price. In comparison to EVM prices in different countries, the price offered by Bangladesh is low,” Saidul told Protohom Alo.

The technical committee led by Jamilur Reza Choudhury recommended keeping the option of VVPAT for the sake of keeping records by the voters themselves in case there arises any dispute.

The EC ignored the recommendation, according to officials concerned. Now, it may face problems while recounting votes, if challenged.

"We recommended including VVPAT. The machine will not be acceptable without it," said Jamilur Reza Choudhury said.

“Unfortunately, the EC has taken decision ignoring our recommendation,” he added.

The EC has proposed amendment to the Representation of the People Order (RPO) to pave the way for use of EVMs.

If the RPO is amended by parliament, the EC will use EVMs in a limited scale in the next parliamentary polls.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the newly floated coalition oppose use of EVMs in the next national elections.

The executive committee of the national economic council (ECNEC) has already approved a project of Tk 38.29 billion for EVM procurement. Out of the outlay, an amount of Tk 35.15 billion is earmarked for buying some 150,000 EVMs.

The EVMs will be bought in three phases in six years, according to the project document. But some Tk 19.98 billion has been allocated during the current fiscal year.

And the EC has a plan to spend more than half of the amount within this financial year.

The cost of EVM is estimated at US$2,000-3,000 in the international market, the documents show.

Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) will supply EVMs to the EC. The BMFT has already started importing accessories from China and Hong Kong.

The Trust Bank has got a special permission from the Bangladesh Bank to open a letter of credit (L/C) for the purpose.