Smartmatic Corp.–the controversial elections technology firm–has again emerged victorious in the bidding for the P7.8-billion lease contract for over 70,000 voting machines that will be used in next year’s elections.
The Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday night declared Smartmatic as the winner after its rival bidder, Indras Sistemas, was disqualified for submitting a “non-responsive bid.”
During the opening of bid proposals, the SBAC found out that what Indra submitted was its supposed bid for a contract to supply 23,000 precinct-based Optical Mark Readers (OMRs). The project failed to take off after the Comelec reversed an earlier decision disqualifying Smartmatic in bidding for the project.
“SBAC declared Smartmatic as bidder with the lowest calculated bid for the 90,977 OMRs. Smartmatic is now in for the post-qualification proceedings,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista on Wednesday said.
Smarmatic earlier conducted an end-to-end demonstration of its OMR, a variant of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) counting machine, as part of the post-qualification process to determine if the machine is compliant with terms of reference or requirements set by the Comelec.
Smartmatic now stands to earn more money, being the winner of the bid for the supply of 23,000 OMRs and another 70,799 of the same machines in case the commission would decide to use the OMRs in the 2016 polls.
The approved contract budget for the first lot is P2.503 billion and P7.867 billion for the second or a total of P9.747 billion.
Also earlier, the SBAC declared a failure of bidding for the P2.88-billion contract to diagnose, repair, refurbish and upgrade 82,000 old PCOS machines for lack of interested bidders.
The failed bidding was declared by SBAC Chairman Jubil Surmieda after two of the three supposed bidders, Smartmatic and Vertex Business Application, withdrew from the proceedings, while the third, Indra Sistemas, did not show up.
Comelec has an approved budget of P2.88 billion for the PCOS machines’
refurbishment. The bidding was originally scheduled for Monday but was reset for Tuesday to synchronize it with the bidding for the 123,000 OMR machines worth a total of P12.897 billion, which was divided in two lots–one for 23,000 (P2.88 billion) and another for 80,000 (P7.867 billion).
Bautista said while a second bidding is still allowed, the Comelec could not do it anymore because of lack of material time, owing to the proximity of the May 9, 2016 local and national elections.
With the first of its options already out, Comelec is left with choosing only between the use of the OMR or the hybrid system being proposed by former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman.
A demonstration of Lagman’s hybrid system was conducted last week in Cavite.
The Comelec is collating the comments and observations of observers and other stakeholders regarding the hybrid’s performance.
Bautista said the poll body will come out with its final decision within the month after consultation with election stakeholders that include Congress, election watchdogs, Comelec ground personnel and teachers.
By the end of the month, he added, a notice to proceed would be given to the project.