THE Commission on Elections’ Bid and Awards Committee (Comelec-BAC) disqualified on Wednesday the two remaining bidders for the poll body’s P2.534 billion voting machines procurement for the 2016 polls.
“We disqualified both bidders, Smartmatic-TIM Corp. and Indra Sistemas, S.A., for submitting non-responsive financial proposals,” said BAC chairman Helen Aguila-Flores.
Comelec spokesperson Director James Jimenez said this could result in a “failure of bidding” if the BAC would keep its decision after deliberating on the motion for reconsideration to be submitted by the bidders.
The two projects on the auction block were the P2.503 billion lease on 23,000 units of precinct-based optical mark reader (OMR) or optical scan (Op-Scan) system and the P31.272 million lease on 410 units of precinct-based direct recording electronic (DRE) technology.
The voting machines will be used in the coming 2016 national and local elections to augment the existing 82,000 units of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, which were also supplied by Smartmatic.
Documents showed that Indra’s tender exceeded by P1.182 billion the total approved budget contract (ABC) for the lease bid-and-purchase option components of the OMR project amounting to P2,503,518,000.
Indra submitted a lease option bid of P2.503 billion and a purchase option of P1.182 billion, for a total of P3.686 billion.
Smartmatic, on the other hand, left several of the items in the bidding form blank, which the BAC considered an incomplete bid. It submitted a total lease and option to purchase bids of P2.229 billion, which is well within the ABC.
“Both submitted non-responsive bids. One overshot the approved budget contract, while the other one left out some of the items in the documents that should have been there, so it’s incomplete,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez explained that the bidders have three days to file their motion for reconsideration, which will be reviewed by the BAC within the week.
He pointed out that under this situation, bidders are not allowed to change or alter anything on their original bid forms.
“If nothing comes out from the BAC, it will be coursed to the Comelec en banc. The BAC will draft the recommendation that there’s a failure of bidding,” he said.
Jimenez said a second bidding would be conducted based on the same specifications, adding that it would be open not just to Smartmatic and Indra but to other interested bidders as well.
This development, he said, would not have serious repercussions on next year’s polls. Although he admitted that it would push back the Comelec’s planning and preparations by one to two months.
“It will fall within our buffer area. We have a time allowance just in case something like this happens,” Jimenez said.
The counsel for Smartmatic, Rubie Yusie, explained that what the BAC deemed as blank or incomplete information, as no cost was indicated, were actually meant to be “zero,” but what appeared instead were “dashes” as the format used was designed that way.
The Smartmatic president for Asia-Pacific, Cesar Flores, explained that unlike Indra, their situation could still be remedied.
“We are following the exact format provided to us by the Comelec. I think there is complete remedy, say complete confusion from the side of BAC,” Flores said.
Indra’s bid, on the other hand, was really far off, which, he noted, was similar to its 2009 bid that also resulted in its disqualification.
The counsel for Indra, Archibald de Mata, explained that the lowest calculated bid should be based on the cost of total bid proposal for lease offer only.
“It was not clear, we can’t find anywhere,” de Mata said, referring to the interpretation of the ABS, which included the cost of the purchase option on the ABC.
Based on “our interpretation, it is clear all along, as you see, this is for lease. But the purchase option is now included,” he said. “We stand by our price proposal. If there is such an interpretation [that includes the purchase option], it is wrong.”