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Sunday, 19 June 2016

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Rs 100 M for sound, electronic voting in Parliament:

Ailing sound system waiting to be replaced

Parliament's amplified sound system is 15 years old, and the electronic voting system 18 years old, and neither system is fully functional today. The sound system is now outdated whereas, the electronic voting system has never been used properly, the Sunday Observer learns.

Pic: ANCL Media Library

The Treasury has allocated Rs. 100 million to instal a brand new microphone system in Parliament in place of the existing system. Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake told the Sunday Observer that tenders were called for a new microphone system even before the recent technical glitch experienced on June 8.

Budgetary estimates

He said, the tenders are scheduled to be evaluated this week. The budgetary allocation was requested during the months of June or July last year to replace the system and it had been included in the budgetary estimates of Parliament, when the budget was passed last December.

Parliament authorities are looking at the technical aspects of the new microphone system and it will be installed before the end of the year, the Secretary General (SG) added.

"The entire system is likely to be replaced with a brand new congress system, with voting facilities.

Repairs have already been made to the existing microphone system and it is functioning now, but the reliability of the system is not at the highest level. It is a digital system relying on hardware as well as software.

It is 15 years old and the relevant company does not have the hardware nor the software to undertake comprehensive repairs," the SG said. "So, it is time we go for a new system. We don't know the exact cost and called for tenders from representatives of companies, to forward their proposals.

The Government has allocated Rs.100 million to replace the system," he said.

The microphone system has malfunctioned at various times. "Unlike the incident on June 8, we could usually fix a technical error within five to ten minutes, previously. But this time, it took more time and was finally repaired at 4.30 pm the same day," he added.

"The system has been fully repaired now. The only problem is, we have to make maximum use of it. Just because of a small technical error, it cannot be removed. Financial allocations were asked last year because it was clear that the system cannot go on, which was the feedback we got from the technical experts as well.

Now, Rs.100 million has been allocated to replace the system," the SG said.

Electronic voting

Meanwhile, the reintroduction of the electronic voting system will also be done, he said. In the draft to amend the Standing Orders of Parliament, amendments have been proposed to decide on electronic voting.

The recent voting fiasco would not have occurred if the electronic voting system was in place, he opined.

The congress system had been installed 18 years ago. But it was not used due to various reasons, such as doubt that there could be computer jugglery and lack of proper Standing Orders to implement it.

It was tried several times, but the members were not happy with the system, and whatever the reasons, the concurrence of the members couldn't be obtained, the SG said. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told the Sunday Observer, a decision has already been taken to replace the microphone system of Parliament, and added that they have already called for tenders. Tenders will be closed on June 21, after which there will be a completely new set up installed, he said.

Speaker Jayasuriya had to adjourn the sittings abruptly and postpone the debate on the no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake on June 8, following a technical glitch in the microphone system of Parliament.

The following day, the Speaker told Parliament that the sound system inside the Chamber broke down due to a technical problem, and was not an act of sabotage, as alleged by the Joint Opposition members.

He said, a comprehensive investigation was conducted and found that the microphone system stopped functioning as it was too old, and added that microphones in the Chamber had stopped functioning on several occasions, earlier.

The system has to be replaced and would be done on a priority basis, the Speaker said.

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