Comelec may still bid out PCOS repair contract

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is not yet discounting the possibility of holding public bidding for the other stages of the refurbishment of the more than 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

In an interview yesterday, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they have decided to tap the joint consortium of Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. only to do diagnostic services on the machines to the tune of P300 million.

“Like a doctor, they will check if there is something wrong with the machines. That’s diagnostic and since they are the manufacturers of the machines, we felt they are the ones who should do that,” he said.

Brillantes said the contract for the project has not been signed but Smartmatic is willing to include “minor repairs” in its diagnostic services.

He said the “actual repairs” were estimated to cost P900 million so they will have to hold a public bidding for this. He cited a procurement policy that projects exceeding P500 million cannot be covered by negotiated contracts.

“If other companies can guarantee that they can repair the machines, we have to have a public bidding. Otherwise, we have to study if we can tap Smartmatic again,” he said.

According to Brillantes, Smartmatic also offered to upgrade the machines for P800 million to be compatible with the 23,000 new optical mark reader (OMR) machines that the Comelec is purchasing for the 2016 polls.

The Comelec, however, felt this is unnecessary since the OMR machines will be used in Metro Manila while the old PCOS machines will be deployed in the provinces.

In the 10-page Resolution 9922 dated Dec. 23, 2014, the Comelec said they decided to resort to direct contracting as “time is of the essence” in their preparation for the 2016 elections.

“Note that it is already December and the Bids and Awards Committee has a little more than 60 days to conduct the bidding. So the two-stage procurement is not within the timeline,” the Comelec said.

The resolution stated that Comelec “would not want to risk not being able to complete all preparatory activities on the basis of unseen logistical problems for fear of not being able to hold the elections on the true prescribed date.”

The poll body maintained that diagnosis is being given to Smartmatic because they do not want to risk having a third party provider handle the “highly technical nature” of the project.

It assured the public that the extension of the warranty contract with Smartmatic meets the requirements of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act on direct contracting.

The Comelec claimed that the extended warranty is just part of the contract that they signed with Smartmatic-TIM in 2009 when they tapped the consortium to supply the PCOS machines for the 2010 elections.

Malacañang, for its part, hinted yesterday that it is giving the Comelec the benefit of the doubt on the controversy hounding the renewed maintenance contract of Smartmatic-TIM.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they recognize that the Comelec is an independent constitutional body and that it should be given sufficient time to explain the issues hounding it.

Inquiry sought

Meanwhile, the lead counsel of Smartmatic-Philippines has asked the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms to conduct an inquiry into reports that a technology provider from Spain failed to meet the requirements to qualify to bid for the Comelec’s P2-billion contract to automate the 2016 national polls.

Lawyer Ruby Yusi also requested Capiz Rep. Frenedil Castro, chairman of the panel, to schedule an inquiry into allegations that IT provider Indra Sistemas is being investigated in Spain on various issues, and that it has a questionable track record in its Southeast Asia operations. – With Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla

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