THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has apparently misled the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) into believing that three of its retirement-bound officials, including Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., will no longer participate in negotiations of a contract to refurbish more than 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used in the 2016 polls.
Pimentel, who heads the JCOC-AES, on Tuesday recalled that officials of the Comelec during a committee hearing in December last year manifested that the three officials will no longer join the negotiations.
“That is why I was surprised that all of a sudden the Comelec en banc voted 5-2 and the retiring commissioners participated and even sided with the five (other Comelec commissioners) on the negotiated contract,” Pimentel said in an interview.
The JCOC-AES head was referring to a resolution issued by the Comelec in 2014 approving an extended warranty agreement with Smartmatic-TIM allowing the PCOS vendor to carry out the repair program.
The resolution involves the P300-million examination, diagnostics and minor repairs of the 82,000 PCOS machines currently in the inventory of the Comelec that were used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph retired from the poll body on Monday but it was learned that Brillantes signed the expanded contract of Smartmatic last January 30, or three days before his retirement.
Based on the contract, Smartmatic will carry out the repair of 82,000 voting machines but, instead of the original price of P300 million, the PCOS supplier agreed to do it for P268.8 million.
Furthermore, it also agreed to include in the contract major repairs and replacement of damaged PCOS machines.
When asked if the Comelec may have violated some laws when it granted the contract to Smartmatic, Pimentel said it had not.
“There’s no law broken but I had that impression (that) they (Brillantes, Tagle and Yusoph) were no longer actively involved,” the senator added.
Pimentel maintained that the decision of the poll body to grant Smartmatic the PCOS machines repair contract without a public bidding goes against the procurement law.
He saw no reason why the Comelec would resort to direct contracting when there is still plenty of time to conduct a public bidding before the national and local elections next year.
According to him, open public bidding would afford the poll body an opportunity to pick the best offer and secure the lowest bid for services and products being bought by the government.
The JCOC-AES is set to meet this Thursday (February 5) and Pimentel said he would ask why the Comelec gave the committee that impression that the three officials will no longer participate in the negotiations.