CONTROVERSIAL technology provider Smarmatic Corp. may have donated to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a total of 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper that were used as voter’s receipt in the last elections, but in return it is asking an additional payment of P107.125 million for manpower expenses.
In a letter to Senior Commissioner Robert Christian Lim, dated April 29, 2016 or 10 days before the May 9 elections, Smartmatic explained that the amount was for technology infrastructure and reconfiguration, vote counting machine production, additional on-site expert support and for other miscellaneous such as additional consumable for the central canvassing system (CCS) and VCM’s production line.
“As discussed, the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) compelling the Comelec to implement the printed voting receipt severely impacted the preparations for the 2016 NLE [national and local elections], thereby necessitating changes in numerous aspects of the project and considerably causing significant expenses to the commission and technology provider,” Elie Moreno, Smartmatic’s project manager, said.
The letter added, “With this change, it was necessary to perform rework on different areas of the project to align with this new objective, and given the short remaining time frame, extended hours were incurred to catch up with the forecasted production schedule and the deployment schedule to have the machines on-time in the different polling centers.”
Commissioner Rowena Guanzn disclosed that matter was presented for approval last Tuesday during the En Banc’s regular meeting but opposed it pending recommendation from the poll body’s law department and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
“I don’t like to pay it because I have to base it on a contract. So I asked the director of the law department and the [BAC] to give us their comment or opinion if that is in the contract. They can’t ask us for a payment if that is not in the contract,” Guanzon added.
The Comelec was forced to call for a bidding of additional 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper to be able to meet the requirement for issuance of voter’s receipts during the May 9 elections in compliance with the directive of the High Court.
The commission allotted a total approved budget of P85.8 million for the purpose.
A local firm, Firms International Enterprises Corp. (FIEC), won the bidding at a bid price of P49.5 million as against Smartmatic’s P83.6 million.
But before the contract could be awarded to FIEC, Smartmatic offered to donate the needed thermal papers, which the Comelec en banc, by a vote of 6-1, readily accepted.
With the Comelec acceptance, the April 5, 2016 bidding was also revoked.
Guanzon registered the lone dissenting opinion against the acceptance of the donation, saying it might be a violation the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“I believe that receiving a donation from Smartmatic who is doing business with Comelec is graft,” Guanzon said.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL