IT experts question BAC on Smartmatic contract

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Some technology professionals in the country have questioned the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for allowing Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) to bid for procurement of Optical Mark Readers (OMRs) for the 2016 polls despite its failure to submit tax clearance.

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A letter from the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), addressed to BAC chief Helen Aguila-Flores, cited the lack of Tax Clearance Certificate of Jarltech is more than enough ground to disqualify Smartmatic-TIM.

Jarltech is said to be a partner of Smartmatic-TIM in the bidding.

PCS President Leo Querubin also cited the deficient Articles of Incorporation of Smartmatic-TIM as another basis to disqualify the multinational company.
The PCS is composed of 700 members.

Querubin recalled that during the pre-bid conference, Flores reminded vendors that purchased eligibility documents to be careful about their document submissions because a deficient document will disqualify them.

The BAC chief, he said, even reminded the vendors that there were other bidders that were disqualified because one of their documents was not notarized.

Querubin added that Flores’ pronouncements made him feel confident that the BAC will be stringent in scrutinizing and appreciating the documents submitted by the bidders.
To his surprise, however, the BAC declared that Smartmatic-TIM hurdled the first level of the bidding despite questions on the eligibility documents it had submitted.

On Monday, it announced that both bidders for the procurement of the OMRs, Indra Sistemas and Smartmatic-TIM, were eligible to participate in the bidding.

However, the BAC voted 3-2, declaring Smartmatic eligible while its only rival Indra Sistemas got a unanimous vote from the committee after submitting complete documents.

Querubin noted that Comelec-issued bid documents state: “Bids that fail to include any requirement or are incomplete or patently insufficient shall be considered as failed.”

The PCS said Smartmatic-TIM should also not be allowed to participate in any bidding activities in the Comelec because its Articles of Incorporation was “for the automation of the 2010 national and local elections.”

“Technically, this means that the Smartmatic-TIM does not exist anymore. The argument of Smartmatic that the secondary purpose stated in the Articles of Incorporation is a blanket cover to provide election services is also intentionally premised on the wrong interpretation of the document,” Querubin said.

“The secondary purpose was ‘in furtherance’ of the primary purpose. Common sense dictates that the secondary purpose then is not independent of the primary purpose,’” he added.

Meanwhile, the blacklisting of Smartmatic-TIM has been sought because of unresolved glitches in past elections.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, a lawyer, made the call on Wednesday, or a day after the Comelec announced that the multinational company is the only supplier that passed the first stage of bidding procedures on eligibility to supply Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines for the 2016 polls.

Election watchdogs Automated Election System Watch (AES-Watch) and Citizens for Clean and Credible Election (C3E) have been calling for manual balloting and tallying at precincts before proceeding to automated canvassing and transmission.

“Comelec cannot simply discount the continuing objections of technical experts led by AES Watch on the competency of the machines previously supplied by Smartmatic to ensure the sanctity of the ballot. There are still unresolved anomalies with regard to the PCOS machines used in past elections. Instead of awarding another contract to Smartmatic-TIM, Comelec should have blacklisted the joint venture,” Ridon said.

But for Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, conducting a semi-manual conduct of the 2016 elections would be “like going back to the Dark Ages.”

Instead, Gatchalian called for vigilance in Comelec’s mandate to conduct free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.

The Automated Election System law mandates testing the machines, dryruns on transmissions, mock polls, production of ballots (including the number of ballots per precinct that should be on hand in case of replacement).

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