[UPDATE on 17 Sept: amending details on election process in paragraph 3 and in paragraph 7, the schools were used as counting centres and not as polling stations]
The finding of empty ballot boxes at a secondary school was not a lapse and did not compromise the 2011 presidential election in any way, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday on behalf of PM Lee Hsien Loong, Chan was responding to a question posed by Aljunied MP Pritam Singh on the matter, which Singh said had caused some amount of concern among members of the public.
The law was also not breached, and the electoral procedure did not suffer any lapses in the process either, said Chan, who noted that after the close of the polls, boxes containing the ballots are sealed in the presence of candidates and their counting agents, who in turn add their own seals before they are brought to the counting centres.
After they are emptied in the presence of candidates and counting agents at the counting centres, the boxes are then considered "uncontrolled items" once they are certified empty, said Chan. These boxes, alongside other election paraphernalia like writing material that is leftover from the voting process are supposed to be collected and disposed of by appointed contractors.
Last month, an anonymous reader sent a series of photos of the empty boxes to socio-political site Temasek Review Emeritus, saying he had found them in a school storeroom.
When they were alerted about them, the Elections Department filed a police report on the matter.
After the discovery of the leftover boxes, Chan said the Elections Department conducted further checks of the 164 schools used as counting centres during the 2011 election and discovered an additional five schools where boxes were found undisposed.
When asked whether the empty ballot boxes should be re-classified as "controlled items" and destroyed together with the counted ballots six months after the election, Chan said he did not think it would be necessary because once the ballots are removed, they would be "just like any other boxes".
He added, however, that he has asked the elections department to review ways to ensure that the disposal process can be further tightened.