System failure caused poll results delay: Deshapriya

A failure in the computer software system used to tally election results caused the delay in issuing official results at last Saturday’s election, Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said yesterday.

Deshapriya said he takes full responsibility for the delay. The Commission had promised to officially release results by 8 pm on Saturday, but the first results only rolled in by 12 am on Sunday.

The software this year had been designed by the Kelaniya University’s IT faculty under Prof. Gamini Wijeratne.

“The software was designed well but on February 9, we found that even if a single data has not been entered properly, we would not be able to get the other results from the system.We got Manthai East first and when got Ambalangoda Municipal Council, we saw that what we had was not tallying with the results in the software. This was because the postal voting numbers had not been entered,”, explained Deshapriya addressing a media briefing at the Elections Secretariat.

This had resulted in the Commission having to manually type in all data and tally them in their own computers, before releasing to the public, four hours later than expected.

Since 1988, the Commission has worked with the Colombo University IT faculty to prepare election results. In 2011, the University worked on one section and the remaining was done by the officers of the Secretariat and Lanka Internet. During the 2010 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, they went back to the Colombo University. But that year there were many allegations cast on the manner in which the results were computed, “We however didn’t have problems with it,” Deshapriya said.

In 2015, the Secretariat once again worked with the Colombo University but this year, their main officers were not available to work with the Commission, “We worked with three main officers at the University but one of them passed away, another left to another organisation and the other said he would not be able to work on it”.

Thus they chose the Kelaniya University and despite questions over why this programme was not thoroughly tested for all possible scenarios, the Chairman stressed that the university or faculty were not be blamed for the failure in the system.

“Most people knew the results in their wards by 6.30 pm anyway and by 12 pm all knew most results.The delay only affected media institutions broadcasting the results”, he added.

He further explained that if they had released results ward wise, they would have finished the job by 2 am Sunday.

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