The election commission (EC) led by ex-chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda purchased 150,000 electronic voting machines (EVM) under a project of Tk 38.25 billion in 2018 before the 11th parliamentary elections.
But, in a span of four years, 40,000 have gone out of order while the remaining 110,000 EVMs will have to be repaired that will cost Tk 12.6 billion, says Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory Limited (BMTF), a government-run company which supplied EVMS.
An EC source said they learnt about the issue from a meeting held on Thursday between BMTF representatives and the EC officials. The EC secretariat will place a proposal before the finance ministry on Monday to allocate Tk 12.6 billion to repair the faulty EVMs -- a move that triggered hullabaloo from different quarters.
The source also said the EC has been examining the functionality of its EVMs stored in EC building, 10 of its regions and BMTF since November. As of now, they have finished the qualitative checking of those EVMs stored in five regions. More than 63 per cent of them were found inoperative.
However, BMTF said all machines need to be fixed.
In the meeting between BMTF and the EC, the BMTF said along with changing the watches inside, new batteries will have to be placed in 110,000 EVMs while the rest 40,000 are irreparable.
When asked about the matter, EC commissioner Md Ahsan Habib Khan told Prothom Alo that a total of 1,143 elections have been conducted so far since 2018 with 150,000 EVMs. Each machine was used three to four times in the last five years. The tenure of the EVM project will expire next June.
Therefore, BMTF proposed to repair these machines. The commission will decide what to do after considering the financial issue, said the commissioner.
The additional secretary of EC secretariat, Ashok Kumar Debnath, told Prothom Alo that they would ask the finance ministry for money in a budget-related meeting to be held on Monday.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam told Prothom Alo that EVM project is a white elephant project. Many questions can be raised over the move.
Beyond the political debate, the EVM also has technological flaws. There are some weather related problems while preserving EVMs in the country. So, it would be better to move away from EVM, he added.