Smartmatic outbid by local firm

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A local firm, Firms International Enterprises Corp. (FIEC), has outbid controversial technology provider Smartmatic-TIM Corp. in bidding for the supply of additional 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper that will be used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as voter’s receipt in the May 2016 national and local elections.

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The bid for the contract with a total approved budget of P85.8 million was opened on Tuesday by the Comelec-Bids and Awards Committee.

FIEC submitted a bid of P49.5 million as against Smartmatic-TIM’s P83.6 million or a difference of P34.1 million.

The Comelec has allotted a total approved budget contract of P85.8 million for the project.

Aside from Smartmatic-TIM and FIEC, another firm, Consolidated Paper Products Inc., had also signified its intention to participate but failed to submit its sealed bid.

But lawyer Rey Domo, vice chairman, BAC, said Smartmatic-TIM may still snatch the contract from FIEC if the latter fails to pass the required post-qualification procedure that would be conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to determine if the winning bidder’s thermal paper complies with the quality and other technical speculations demanded by the commission.

“If it is found out during the post-qualification validation that the thermal paper is not compatible [with the vote counting machines], we will go to the next bidder. [It will be its turn] to to undergo post-qualification [procedure],” Domo added.

He explained that if the winning bidder hurdled the post -qualification validation, the Comelec en banc would issue the notice of award and thereafter the posting of bond, and lastly the issuance of the notice to proceed (NTP).

Under the rules, the winning bidder has five days to deliver the 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper after the issuance of the NTP.

Domo said they wanted the post-qualification process finished early next week so that they would be able to meet their April 18 target for the issuance of the NTP.

“Full delivery is expected on April 23 and deployment to voting centers around the country should be finished by April 29,” he added.

Emeritu Castillo, authorized representative of FIEC, said if the contract would be ultimately awarded to them, they can comply with five-day delivery timeline requirements because their thermal paper is locally manufactured even if the base components are imported.

Castillo added that they have no problem with the quality and compatibility, including the width and length of their thermal paper, that are in accordance with the requirements of the vote counting machines or VCMs.

Comelec has also required a six-year life span for the thermal paper print.

“It is compatible. We have already given the DOST samples, including an authorization letter for the Comelec to get the results of the post-qualification [evaluation],” Castillo said.

The post-qualification evaluation is a verification process to determine if the FIEC has complied with all legal and technical requirements.

The Comelec was forced to order the additional 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper to be able to meet the requirement of the needed quantity for the issuance of voter’s receipt in the coming elections in compliance with an order of the Supreme Court.

The existing thermal paper supply of the Comelec was only enough for the issuance of initialization report before the start of the voting process and for the printing of copies of election returns after voting has closed.

The current stock was supplied by Smartmatic.

It was bundled in its contract for the supply-lease of 97,519 units of VCMs worth at least P10 billion.

 WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

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