THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has spent P70 billion for old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and will spend approximately another P38.8 billion between now and the 2019 mid-term elections for a total of P108.8 billion.
The staggering amount has prompted the Comelec en banc to forego its option to purchase all-new 93,977 Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines that it would lease from technology provider Smartmatic Corp. to ensure that the fortune that it has spent and will spend for the PCOS machines would not go to waste.
The consensus was arrived at by the poll body during its last regular en banc meeting after it decided to put to use the existing 81,896 PCOS machines in the 2019 mid-term elections.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said immediately after next year’s polls, they would call a bidding for the repair, refurbishment and upgrade of the old PCOS machines to ensure that the machines would be put to use in the 2019 polls.
In the planned bidding , the Comelec is expected to spend at least another P3 billion so that the PCOS machines would perform with speed and accuracy in 2019.
Bautista explained that they do not want a repeat of what had happened this year when the poll body, instead of using the PCOS machines, was left with no other choice but to lease all-new OMRs for lack of time brought about by the Supreme Court ruling that voided a negotiated contract earlier entered into by the Comelec with Smarmatic and by two successive failed public biddings.
“We will bid out the refurbishment/upgrade contract with a longer lead time because rush jobs are more expensive and present greater technical risk,” he said.
“We will utilize the refurbished and upgraded 81,000 plus PCOS machines for the 2019 elections,” Bautista added.
The non-use of the Comelec’s option to purchase the OMRs was among the three conditions set by Commissioner Arthur Lim in his concurrence vote on the lease of the OMRs, saying non-compliance would “ipso facto” turn his concurrence into a dissenting vote.
The PCOS machines, which were used in the 2010 and 2013 elections, were leased from Smartmatic in 2009 at a cost of P7,191,484,739.48.
In 2010, the Comelec exercised its option to purchase the PCOS machines at an additional cost of P2,130,635,048.15 for a total cash outlay of P9,322,119,784.63.
In addition, the Comelec also pays P800,000 a month or P9.6 billion a year in rentals for a warehouse in Laguna where the PCOS machines are being stored.
Since 2009, it has approximately spent P57.6 billion in rental payments, bringing to P66.9 billion the total amount it spent for the machines, including lease and purchase costs.
Between now and 2019, the Comelec is expected to spend approximately another P38.8 billion for warehouse rentals alone.
“The amount thus expended for these PCOS [machines]leaves no room for doubt that a serious accountability issue arises were these to be left to rot in a warehouse in Laguna for which the commission pays a huge monthly rental of P800,000,” Lim said.