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Comelec reverses ruling disqualifying Smartmatic

Voting 4-2-1, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the Comelec had decided to grant the plea of Smartmatic-TIM after finding that the firm’s OMR demonstration machines were compliant with the requirements of the P2.5-billion project. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday reversed the disqualification of Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. in the contract to supply some 23,000 new optical mark reader (OMR) machines to be used in the 2016 polls.

Voting 4-2-1, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the Comelec had decided to grant the plea of Smartmatic-TIM after finding that the firm’s OMR demonstration machines were compliant with the requirements of the P2.5-billion project.

“Because of the 4-2-1, the Notice of Awards will be given to Smartmatic and we will now proceed to the discussions on the contracts in so far as the 23,000 OMR are concerned,” Lim said in a press briefing.

“The instant protest is hereby granted. Accordingly, the commission hereby declares the joint venture of Smartmatic-TIM as the bidder with the lowest calculated responsive bid in connection with the public bidding for the lease with option to purchase 23,000 new units for use in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections,” the resolution added.

During the post-qualification evaluation stage of the first round of bidding in May, Smartmatic-TIM was disqualified by the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) after it failed to submit valid Articles of Incorporation and its OMR machines in a demonstration failed to simultaneously store data.

Smartmatic-TIM had filed a protest before the Comelec and last June 23, the joint venture was allowed to do a technical demonstration of its units.

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The Technical Evaluation Committee found that the machines “can and do write election data in two storage devices simultaneously” and this was upheld by the Comelec.

In a statement, Smartmatic-TIM lauded the decision of the Comelec, saying it only affirms the joint venture’s stand all along.

Bidding failure

The Comelec’s Special Bids and Awards Committee - 2 (SBAC-2) declared yesterday a failure in the public bidding for the repair and refurbishment of 81,896 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

In yesterday’s Submission and Opening of Bids, SBAC-2 chair Jubil

Surmieda said that three bidders have bought the bid documents but all three firms failed to submit an actual bid for the project amounting to P2,074,088.878.

“There was no bid offers although three bidders have bought the bid documents. So under the rules, that is equivalent to a failure of bidding,” he told reporters.

Bidders Smartmatic-TIM, Indra Sistemas S.A. and Vertex Business Applications, Inc. purchased bid documents for the project.

Smartmatic-TIM and Vertex Business Applications Inc. manifested that they were backing out from the bidding, while Indra Sistemas did not give any explanation.

Surmieda noted the SBAC-2 would be conducting a “mandatory review” of the project’s specification and then submit a recommendation to the Comelec.

For his part, Smartmatic president for Asia Pacific Cesar Flores claimed that his company decided to withdraw because Comelec had slashed the budget for PCOS refurbishment by P805,911,121 last June 23.

The project’s original price was P2.880 billion but Comelec cut it down to P2,074,088,878.92 after removing a component, which pertains to the replacement of the “unrepairable” PCOS units with new machines.

Flores added that the budget cut was “very surprising to us as they never encountered a situation where in the middle of a bid, basically with less than one week, bidders are told that budget is slashed in such a dramatic way.

“The amount was cut by 45 percent. Meaning with the budget reduction, the amount per PCOS was P20,513.82 to do all the refurbishment and upgrades and it was lowered to P11,141.52. With that drastic reduction, it was not economically viable anymore,” he said.

Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reform, urged yesterday the Comelec to study the possibility of seeking an exemption from government procurement laws so it could directly negotiate a favorable contract for the refurbishment of the PCOS machines. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy

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