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Subcontractor's track record under spotlight as London Mayoral e-counting costs spiral

Bill approaching £9m compared to £4.1m in last procurement process

Concerns have been raised over a key supplier of an e-counting system for the London Mayoral elections in 2020.

The contract, split between Canadian integrator CGI and Smartmatic, will cost nearly £9m – more than double the cost of £4.1m for the system at the last procurement process in 2012.

Smartmatic, a subsidiary of UK registered SGO Corporation Ltd, is a privately owned organisation. It was incorporated in the US state of Delaware in 2000 but has been HQ'd in London since 2012.

During a July hearing about the 2020 elections at the London Assembly Oversight Committee, members heard that Smartmatic, which builds and sells electronic voting tech, had worked on the Scottish elections.

However, the London Assembly has since confirmed to The Register that Smartmatic was not involved. The company was also recently blamed for a number of technical glitches in the Philippine elections.

The London Assembly was told costs had increased because the new vote-counting system offered better functionality than the previous procurement.

A spokesperson for the Greater London Authority said: "This was a decision taken by the Greater London Returning Officer. The contract was awarded following a standardised process that considered bids according to value for money and service quality."

CGI is the lead contractor for the London elections and was also the lead contractor responsible for the Scottish elections.

The Greater London Authority added that while it hadn't "technically" worked on the Scottish elections, Smartmatic's current client director for the London elections did as part of a different organisation "so the London elections will benefit from same experience, expertise and knowledge gained in previous major elections".

The Authority said that as a candidate, the Mayor had no involvement in the choice of contractor.

However, Caroline Pidgeon, member of the London Assembly for the Liberal Democrats, told The Register she was concerned.

"With the cost of electronic counting for the GLA elections doubling and with a number of other concerns about how transparent the process is, it is only right to take a careful look at whether electronic counting is in fact the right approach for such an important set of elections.

"The Electoral Commission have long called for a proper cost benefit analysis of electronic counting for the GLA elections – it is time they were listened to."

Pascal Crowe, democracy officer for the Open Rights Group, a digital rights campaign organisation, said the body had previously raised worries about the procurement to the Greater London Returning Officer.

"This means that private companies are using our democracy as a user-testing exercise for their products." He added that Smartmatic has "a poor track record".

The Register has asked Smartmatic and CGI for a comment. ®

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