Audit: $23m second WA Senate election was avoidable

TAXPAYERS across Australia footed a bill of $23 million for the re-run of the Western Australia Senate election earlier this year, but the re-run was avoidable, a Commonwealth audit has found.

The Australian National Audit Office today released the report on its investigation of the Australian Electoral Commission's bungling of the September election last year.

It found that the AEC's loss of some 1370 ballot papers during last year's election, which triggered a Hight Court case and the Senate election re-run, could have been avoided if the commission acted on advice it got as early as 2007.

The report found that the audit office's recommendations after the 2007 election and again after the 2010 election, specifically on improving the security of ballot papers, had only partly been acted on by 2013.

"Specifically, rather than identifying and assessing options to improve the physical security over the transport and storage of completed ballot papers (as had been recommended by ANAO), the AEC focused on making more overt in procedural and training documentation its expectation that polling place officials keep ballot papers secure at all times by implementing existing approaches to ballot paper security," the report reads.

The report also found the lost ballot papers which led directly to the re-run of the WA Senate election had cost taxpayers some $19 million for the poll itself, plus an extra $3 million in public funding for candidates.

It also recommended better follow-up of the audit office's recommendations and other oversight bodies, among other issues.

An official response to the audit from the electoral commission again apologised for the mistakes made and promised to implement the recommendations in full.

However, the AEC said due to 11 reforms to electoral laws between 2007 and 2013, and contributing to nine parliamentary inquiries, which had "significant resources" attached.



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