A bizarre (Acting) Returning Officer error

I have been digging a bit further into the data behind the story I ran previously about how key election expenses paperwork is set to be deleted early in 1 in 5 constituencies.

The issue is the widespread failure by Acting Returning Officers (AROs) to meet the statutory duty to send copies of election expense returns to the Electoral Commission after a general election.

I’ve now been reading an Electoral Commission document (EC41/16) which details what went wrong. It includes:

  • AROs scanning all of the returns for a constituency as one document, with pages out of sequence, or providing multiple scanned documents for each candidate (up to 12 separate documents in the worst case)
  • AROs requesting that we log in and download documents from their servers. In some cases passwords provided were incorrect, and in others the passwords had a limited lifespan and expired
  • Incomplete returns (e.g. front pages only, missing declarations, only short campaign returns) being forwarded without any explanation as to whether the return had been incomplete when delivered to the RO

and then finally the bizarre (and rather worrying given the personal data involved):

  • One ARO, apparently misunderstanding the meaning of expenditure return, delivered to us a statement of expenses for the local authority, including staff payroll.

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