THE winning bidder in the P727-million Voter Verification System (VVS) project
of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is allegedly a favored firm of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), according to inside sources.
“Despite being a first-time participant in local-elections automation, the joint venture of French firm Safran Morpho and Comfact Corp. apparently has an inside track at the Comelec bidding process,” claimed a Comelec source on Tuesday.
He cited the BAC’s refusal to disqualify the French firm despite its failure to perform a demonstration of its machine at the close of the submission of bids last week, among other signs of favoritism.
The source expressed belief that Morpho is fronting for a retired Comelec official and its ally Smartmatic-TIM Corp., the supplier of the poll body’s 82,000 units of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, to ensure that the tandem corner all contracts related to preparations for the 2016 national and local elections.
It is obvious that subsequent rulings of the BAC, the source said, were quite questionable, leading to suspicions that the committee was playing favorites.
For instance, he added, a bidder filed a motion seeking disqualification of the Morpho joint venture for submitting incomplete requirements last March 11, particularly the soft copies of both the technical documentation and the source code, in accordance with the BAC’s bid bulletin released on February 16.
The source noted how the Safran-Comfac JV also failed to bring its VVS equipment during the preliminary bid submission as required by the Comelec through Bid Bulletin No. 3.
He recounted how BAC chief Helen Aguila-Flores merely dismissed this apparent violation by Morpho and Comfac despite a protest registered by counsels of other bidders.
“Legal counsel for Safran-Comfac said the VVS unit was not included in their copy of the requirement checklist, for which [Flores] apologized for the confusion the committee has caused for the conflicting requirement checklist,” a portion of the BAC ruling read.
But observers wonder how Flores could simply ignore such an important part of the bidding process, and questioned the BAC’s stand on transparency and accountability.
Another questionable move by the BAC, according to the same sources, was to disallow other bidders and observers from participating in post-qualification proceedings.
The BAC granted the Morpho-Comfac JV’s request to prohibit other bidders from observing the testing and demonstration of the VVS, which was to be held a week after the submission of bids on grounds of confidentiality.
“This was previously not so in the initial demonstration for the OMR [Optical Mark Reader] where all bidders were allowed to observe and participate,” one source said.
Smartmatic and its competitor in the OMR bidding Indra Sistemas S.A. were required to show capabilities of the OMRs and how they worked in front of the BAC, media and observers.
It was provided for in the Manual of Procedures for the Procurement of Goods and Services, a Comelec insider said.
“This brazen manipulation of the bidding process is making decent men revolt against the system,” he added.
“And all these are happening because of the manipulative hands of somebody in tandem with Smartmatic in order for them to corner all election-related contracts at the Comelec,” the source said.
The Manila Times called Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez many times for comment but he did not respond to the calls.