Deadline for Comelec to buy PCOS machines has expired

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An election watchdog discourages the Comelec from re-using election machines in the 2010 automated polls

MANILA, Philippines – An election watchdog discouraged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from re-using the election machines in the 2010 automated polls.

In a letter it sent to the poll body on Wednesday, March 7, the group AES Watch reminded the commissioners that the contract between Comelec and machine manufacturer Smartmatic-Tim Corp — particularly the ‘option to purchase’ the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines — had already expired on Dec 31, 2010.

“There is no longer any valid option that may be exercised,” the group stated in the letter.

The group added that Smartmatic extended and revised the contract several times. The machine manufacturer offered an extension until March 21, 2011, but the deadline lapsed without the Comelec taking any action.

Smartmatic then offered another extension in a letter on April 1, 2011, which “contains contract modification.”

“It is clear that the Smartmatic proposal is totally different from the terms and conditions under the original Option to Purchase stipulated in the Comelec-Smartmatic-Tim Corp contract,” the group stated.

The Comelec is reportedly considering this “option to purchase” as it only has a P7-B budget to conduct the 2013 polls. Leasing brand new units will cost the Comelec P6.2-B, while buying the 2010 PCOS machines will cost the poll body only P1.8-B.

The Comelec is reported to be in need of 125,000 units of PCOS machines.

The group earlier called for the disqualification of Smartmatic from participating in the bidding for new machines in the next polls because of its “questionable acts.” The use of Smartmatic’s PCOS machines in the 2010 polls was marred by controversies, among them the misconfiguration of the compact flash cards and the removal of several security features.

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