Ulster Unionist Leader, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, has called for the Northern Ireland Audit Office to look at the processes and procedures used in the conduct of recent elections and to consider if the closure of a number of Electoral Offices has had an impact on the delivery of services. This follows allegations made to the BBC`s Nolan programme.
Mr Aiken said:
“We are extremely disappointed at the latest turn of events regarding allegations around the Electoral Office`s management of elections in Northern Ireland. We wrote to the previous Secretary of State last year raising our concerns, and we will be writing to Brandon Lewis asking him to ensure that he receives independent verification that the elections have been conducted in a way that provides confidence to the public. It is not sufficient for the Electoral Office to mark its own homework.
“Serious allegations have been made about the conduct of elections, and the way in which they have been dealt with so far has done little to allay people`s concerns about how the Electoral Office has dealt with these allegations.
“The Secretary of State is required to report to Parliament about the conduct of the recent elections and he needs to be absolutely sure that he can stand over the content of that report. There are very serious allegations that need a transparent investigation and I would ask that the Northern Ireland Audit Office carry out that investigation.
“They need to consider the processes, procedures and the impact of the decision to close a number of Electoral Offices across Northern Ireland. The Electoral Office has seen a cut in their resources and this could be the manifestation of those cuts. The public need to be 100% certain that everything is being done to maintain the integrity of our democratic system and it also needs to be seen to be done, to maintain public confidence.”