As the Commission on Elections (Comelec) prepares to open the bidding for 40,000 new automated counting machines for the 2016 presidential polls, a group of IT experts are determined to stop the supplier of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) system from joining the bid.
The AES (Automated Election System) Watch has brought its campaign to blacklist PCOS supplier Smartmatic to the Senate. In a letter to Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, Nelson Celis, AES Watch spokesperson, faulted Smartmatic for not complying with the Request for Proposal (RFP) during the bidding.
The RFP, also known as the Terms of Reference (TOR), lists the Comelec’s policies, requirements and technical specifications to guide prospective bidders.
Celis said Smartmatic also violated Republic Act (RA) 9184, or the “Government Procurement Reform Act.”
“A very clear example of RA 9184 violation was the submission of the ISO [International Organization for Standardization] 9001 certification . . . both TIM and Smartmatic did not have ISO 9001 certification then and was initially declared ineligible by SBAC [Special Bids and Awards Committee] in bidding for the 2010 election automatic project,” Celis told Pimentel.
The infringements of Smartmatic disqualify it from joining the bidding, he said.
An SBAC review of the Smartmatic bidding documents found that the ISO certification submitted by the consortium belonged to a Taiwan-based firm, Jarltech International, Celis said.
Smartmatic also violated “subcontracting” clauses under the SBAC resolution, he said.
Celis said the General Procurement and Policy Board’s (GPPB) manual for the Procurement of Goods and Services requires that “all subcontracting arrangements must be disclosed at the time of the bidding and it prohibits subcontracting of more than 20 percent of the total project costs.”
Smartmatic failed to inform Comelec that the software for PCOS was owned by Dominion.
“Smartmatic violated these provisions by not informing Comelec that the PCOS software was owned by Dominion. GPPB also did not lift a finger when their own rules were violated,” Celis said.
Citing Smartmatic’s violations, AES Watch urged the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to advise Comelec’s SBAC “to seriously consider the above cases in the forthcoming bidding for 2016 elections as Smartmatic has not complied with the RFP since 2009.”
But Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. has stood by Smartmatic, saying the multinational company can still supply the AES for the 2016 elections if it wins the bidding.
“Why should they be prohibited in the first place? Of course, they can join the bidding. The bidding will be open to everybody,” Brillantes said
“Smartmatic has never been blacklisted by the Comelec. As a matter of fact, we have never blacklisted anybody,” he said.
According to Comelec Senior Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, the SBAC is drafting the TOR covering 40,000 new AES units for the 2016 polls.
Tagle said the bidding will begin as soon as the TOR is published.
Last week, former Comelec Commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman said the Comelec must postpone the bidding until after Brillantes and two other commissioners retire.
He said the poll body should not rush the bidding and that it can hold the bidding until next early next year or even in the second quarter.
Celis has lambasted the Comelec over the proposed P16-billion budget for the 2016 presidential and national elections.
He said the proposed budget “is way above the P9-billion investment for [the purchase]of 82,000 PCOS machines [in 2010 and 2013 elections.”
“That is, the requested budget for 2016 is almost twice the combined expense in 2010 and 2013, but half the number of equipment. Does this mean that price of PCOS machines doubled in matter of few years?” he said.