San Juan – The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of Puerto Rico, published on Wednesday the examination report of the State Elections Commission (CEE), after a referral by the current president, Francisco Rosado Colomer, to carry out a audit in the government body.
In accordance with the powers and faculties that have been conferred on the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), by virtue of Law Number 15 of 2017, as amended, on November 12, 2017, an examination of the administrative processes for the management of inventory of ballots, sending and receiving them.
As well as the evaluation of internal controls in the EEC.
The OIG determined to divide the evaluation into two areas: inventory of ballots acquired for the 2020 elections and evaluation of the internal controls of the Administrative Board of Absentee and Early Voting (JAVAA).
The OIG made information requests to request the relevant evidence for said examination and interviews were conducted with CEE personnel and Printech Inc. printing company personnel.
In the examination carried out, eight main findings were identified, which are detailed in the report that is public through the official website of the OIG, www.oig.pr.gov.
Among the findings are the following:
Difference between purchase orders vs. production of ballots as you drive. According to the analysis of the four ballot purchase orders for the 2020 general elections, which were certified on December 4, 2020, along with eighteen conducts (all admitted by the EEC recipient), a difference of 71,998 was determined ballots received in excess. According to the conduits or receipts, the EEC received a total of 11,857,248 ballots. However, according to the purchase orders, 11,785,250 ballots were ordered.
Differences between the inventory of ballots received in Electoral Operations and JAVAA according to certifications, against that received by the Official Receiver in the conducts (packing lists). Electoral Operations and JAVAA received the ballots for the 2020 general elections from the official recipient. According to the certification of November 17, 2020, issued by the JAVAA, 1,920,000 ballots were received. However, according to the conducts, 2,056,000 ballots were received. The difference is due to the fact that the JAVAA certification did not consider conduits from several additional EEC packing lists.
Differences between the inventory balances of leftover ballots in JAVAA. After a reconciliation of the official documents, which are part of the compiled test, it was determined that in JAVAA the differences in the remaining ballots is 26,454 in the vault inventory.
The remaining ballot inventory certifications issued by JAVAA managers and Election Operations officials do not match the balances determined by the OIG auditors. The president and managers of JAVAA issued on November 30, 2020 two certifications related to the number of ballots left over from the early voting event amounting to 838,559. However, the physical inventory carried out revealed that the estimated total of remaining ballots was 894,958. Consequently, the examination revealed a difference of 56,399 excess ballots.
From the visual inspection performed in the JAVAA vault, it appears that 56,399 excess inventory ballots were not accounted for at the time of issuing the certification. The disorganization in the location of the excess ballots in JAVAA, as well as the absence of detailed and written procedures, together with the lack of a mechanized and accurate inventory system, could have caused the differences.
On the other hand, the certification of surplus ballots issued by Electoral Operations on November 20, 2020, detailed the amount of 156,400 remaining ballots in the vault. Following a visual inspection by OIG auditors on December 3, 2020, a difference of 400 ballots was identified. For these purposes, on December 7, 2020, Electoral Operations presented an amended certification, for the total amount of 156,800 remaining ballots, understood, according to the count made by the auditors.
Unlike Electoral Operations, whose briefcases with leftover ballots were classified and identified by seals, all in the vault, in JAVAA disorder was observed in the content of the briefcases, since several seals were mixed and the open packages of remaining ballots contained an amount different from that detailed, while other packages did not identify whether they had been previously accounted for. In addition, as previously reported, there were briefcases with leftover ballots located outside the designated area.
Other findings were broken down in the examination report among which is, lack of documentation and adequate regulations, lack of written processes and procedures, lack of training and training on absentee voting and early voting, and serious deficiencies in internal controls. It is worth emphasizing that the examination carried out by the OIG did not cover the process of packing briefcases, counting or counting votes.
As mentioned above, JAVAA is created with the purpose of administering the process of application, voting and adjudication of Absentee and Early Votes. JAVAA is responsible for all the absentee voting, early voting, domicile voting and confined voting procedures. The witness and documentary evidence examined revealed the following:
Failure to submit weekly reports to the CEE of the total number of applications for absentee voting and early voting approved, as required in section 2.3 B.6 of the Absentee and Early Voting Regulations. [,] 2020 Primaries and 2020 General Elections and Plebiscite
Absence of entry and exit records of people, and of briefcases to the JAVAA vault.
Absence of minutes of the JAVAA and JAVAA Alterna meetings to document the agreements reached, the instructions received and given, and evidence the supervision carried out on the processes.
One of the priority recommendations to the CEE is the acquisition and establishment of an electronic system, which replaces or complements the manual receipt methods both in JAVAA and in Electoral Operations and that they are synchronized with the official receiver and the Purchasing Division and Supplies. The lack of a precise electronic system, to substitute or complement the manual receipt of ballots. Failure to maintain adequate control of the inventory of surplus ballots created discrepancies on the amount of ballots in circulation at any given time.
The OIG discussed the findings with the current president of the State Elections Commission, who pledged to give attention to them and work to correct the deficiencies found.