AEC gives Fuji Xerox AU$27m for another ballot scanning system

Fuji Xerox Businessforce will be providing the Australian Electoral Commission with a new Senate scanning solution, touting the success of the one the company provided for the 2016 federal election.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has signed another contract with Fuji Xerox Businessforce to provide a ballot scanning system for the next federal election.

The AU$27 million, two-year contract includes the supply of the technology and equipment that will be extended for use by state and territory electoral commissions.

An AEC spokesperson told ZDNet that correct processes were undertaken regarding procurement, selecting Fuji Xerox Businessforce from a standing deed of offer that is managed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

On the four-vendor panel, which began in June 2014 and will last through to June 2019, is data preparation and processing firm Decipha, management consultants Sema Operations, Fuji Xerox Australia, and Fuji Xerox Businessforce.

The spokesperson said the new arrangement will see the company provide a "very similar" solution to the one used for the 2016 federal election, which the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) recently called out for lacking on the security front.

In particular, the ANAO said AEC ditched compliance with Australian government IT security frameworks and said insufficient attention was paid to assuring the security and integrity of the data generated both during and after operation, as the focus was on delivering a Senate scanning system by polling day -- 12 weeks out from the election.

Facing Senate Estimates last month, Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was satisfied with the risks that the AEC accepted ahead of its go-live.

"They were not untreated risks -- we were aware of them," Rogers clarified.

"One of the comments in the report, or inference, is that I accepted a higher level of risk and in my way of thinking, that's what you do with projects. You identify the risks and mitigate or accept them. And for that particular project I was satisfied with the risks that we accepted."

The Senate heard that instead of conducting a public tender, the AEC used an existing standing deed of offer with Fuji Xerox and said next time the AEC would be adopting a panel approach to service procurement. However, that's not the case.

Discussing the new arrangement with ZDNet, the AEC spokesperson said contracting Fuji Xerox and the use of the ATO's standing offer wasn't the result of having insufficient funding at its disposal, rather the company was selected after delivering a "successful" solution last time.

During Estimates, First Assistant Commissioner of Capability Tim Courtney said he was "incredibly proud" of the solution used at the 2016 election.


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