A TORY MP is a director of a company that has become a major player in how elections are managed in Scotland, it has emerged.

Concerns have been raised with the Electoral Commission about the involvement with Idox of former Tory Cabinet minister Peter Lilley, who is a senior non-executive director.

Idox has had a hand in providing count software, including postal vote management support, among other services, for elections since at least 2012.

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In a statement to shareholders, the firm said it also successfully provided “the majority of electoral services” for the 2014 Scottish referendum, saying that its systems managed the highest turnout in recent years for a major UK election.

Montreal-based CGI  and Idox won the £6.5 million contract to provide an electronic vote counting system for the 2017 local government elections in Scotland.

Objectors have questioned the rationale of awarding contracts to Idox when it has links to one political party, and about the “creeping privatisation” of elections.

Lilley, who served as trade and industry secretary from July 1990 to April 1992, has been a paid non-executive director for 14 years, and received £35,000 in 2015 for his services.

He holds 533,000 shares: 111,300 are in a self-invested pension plan and 59,250 are held through various members of his family.

The former social security secretary is chairman of Idox’s nomination and remuneration committee, which makes recommendations over how much executives are paid. He is also a member of its audit committee.

When appointed as a director, during the infancy of the firm, executives told shareholders he “brings with him a wealth of experience of central and local government, which we believe will be of considerable benefit to the group, especially as it seeks to achieve an increasingly strategic role with both local and central government”.

One objector who has lodged a complaint said: “Elections should be free of any issue that might raise any questions.”

Three years ago, Idox said they were the largest provider of electoral management systems in the UK, covering a voting population of 13 million.

It describes itself as "one of the premier election service providers in the UK, providing outstanding expertise and knowledge across all areas of election management".

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Their team of experts include former Electoral Registration Officers who Idox said advise the UK's central government on initiatives such as the Individual Electoral Registration.

Chris Highcock, of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, which has a key role in delivering elections, said he could not comment on Idox and Peter Lilley, but said that companies they dealt with win contracts through “normal procurement processes” and competitive tendering.

He stressed that returning officers remain in charge of the adjudication of the vote.

Highcock said: “Idox is one of a number of companies that supplies various support to returning officers across Scotland, and indeed the UK, as they deliver elections.

“Such suppliers provide services including, for example, the printing of ballot papers and poll cards. All such contracts are awarded by the individual returning officers on the basis of what will provide the best value and quality with the interests of the voter always at the heart of all our activities and contracts.”

The Electoral Commission produces advice in advance of the Scottish Parliament elections to prevent the undermining of confidence in the electoral process following “high-profile” electoral fraud cases.

Karim Aziz, of the elections regulator, said: “It’s a decision completely up to returning officers what company they use. They need to adhere to procurement rules set by the Scottish Government. The commission has no role in which companies are chosen to perform the services.”

After one concerned person asked about the use of “Peter Lilley’s firm”, the Scottish Government responded: “The awarding of contracts to Idox, or other commercial companies, was a matter for individual counting officers to decide. The Scottish Government was not involved in this process.”

Jenny Watson, Electoral Commission chairwoman, promised staff would work with everyone involved with elections to ensure that risks are monitored and tackled through “co-ordinated action”.

After with CGI  winning the contract to provide vote systems for the 2017 local government elections, Idox said that with its e-counting system, scanning ballot papers can be achieved in four hours and calculations take just minutes, “improving the accuracy and auditability of results”.

The system to count paper ballots electronically is due to undergo a year of testing, before teams will be trained at every local authority.

During the 2015 General Election, a team from Idox helped deliver its postal vote management system (PVMS) in local authorities across Scotland. Company details show that work began almost two weeks before polling day, with staff arriving on-site to set up the system and meet temporary staff “employed to open and scan the postal vote statement and ballot papers”.

“The scale of this operation varied from one local authority to another. Some of the smaller ones had 8,000 voting packs to get through before election day, whereas sites like Glasgow (with an anticipated 66,000 packs) would sometimes process more than that in one day,” said one description of what happened.

Company data reveals that the system helps to ensure postal votes are authentic by comparing voters’ original postal vote application (PVA) with the postal vote statement (PVS). The software compares the two forms using two unique identifiers – signature and date of birth.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The administration of elections in Scotland is the responsibility of individual returning officers for each local authority, who award contracts for support services, such as the printing of ballot papers and poll cards, on the basis of what will provide the best value and quality, with the interests of the voter always taking precedence.”

Idox was approached for comment but did not respond.