Joint venture’s plea to stayin poll project hunt denied

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THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has denied a motion for reconsideration of the lone bidder in the failed second round of biddings for repair, refurbishment and upgrade of 81,896 old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) counting machines.

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The Comelec’s five-member Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) 2, in a 4-1 vote, turned down the petition of the joint venture Dermalog Identifications Systems, Avante International and Stone of David Tactical Equipment (JV) seeking, among others, a reversal if its earlier disqualification, that it be declared as the winning bidder and to award the PCOS project.

In its three-page ruling, the SBAC 2 sustained its Resolution 001 that declared the joint venture “ineli¬gible”in the second competitive bidding for non-compliance with the law and technical requirements of the rules of bidding.

The committee is headed by lawyer Jubil Surmieda, lawyer Maria Juan S. Valez as vice chairman and lawyers Agnes Carreon, Sabino Mejaritto and John Rex Laudiangco as members.

The second round of biddings was held last August 1, Saturday.

The PCOS refurbishment project has an approved budget contract of P3.130 billion.

Aside from the JV, two other firms, Smartmatic-TIM Corp. and Miru Systems Co., bought the bidding documents, but did not participate during the actual bidding.

Both Smartmatic and Miru said they did not participate for lack of time for implementation of the project owing to the proximity of the May 9, 2016 elections.

During an earlier pre-bid conference, representatives of both firms manifested before the SBAC 2 that they could accomplish the project within a four to five-month period as compared to the two-month period stipulated in the terms of reference of the bidding process.

The SBAC’s technical working group has even warned that the second round of bidding may result in another failure if the existing implementation calendar was not adjusted.

“Early on, we have identified that the biggest hurdle for us is the implementation schedule of the commission considering that election day is barely nine months away. We have been trying to find ways to meet the providers’ schedule, considering such factors as the budget and scope of work,” Smartmatic said in a letter to the Comelec.

“The need to meet such schedule is too great for us with a possibility of over-committing brings with it unthinkable repercussions for our company and for the country,” it added.

Smartmatic has explained that the repair, refurbishment and upgrade of the PCOS machines is a more complex process than building new machines.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said in light of the recent award of the contract for the lease of 23,000 new OMR to Smart¬matic, the poll body is weighing the option of engaging in direct negotiations for the refurbishment of the existing 81,896 PCOS machines or leasing 70,977 new Optical Mark Readers (OMRs).

“The issues being considered by the Comelec at the moment are cost, timeliness and technical risk. The difference between cost of refurbishment and lease of new machines is around P2.5 billion,” Bautista added.

With approximately 54 million voters in 2016, the poll body targets to bring the ratio of voter-to-machine down to 600 to 800 voters per OMR as opposed to the 1,000 voters per PCOS machine in 2010 and 2013.

The question, according to Bautista, is whether the augmentation will come from the refurbished 81,896 PCOS machines or the leased brand-new OMRs.

“The Comelec will be making the choice between these two options in the coming weeks. It will be in the nation’s best interest if the decision-making process is as well-informed as it can possibly be,” he said.

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