Pimentel: Public bidding for PCOS repairs 'only way' to go
MANILA, Philippines – The chair of the Senate electoral reforms committee renewed his call to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to scrap a deal with Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corporation for the diagnostics on precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be reused in the 2016 elections.
Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III pushed for a public bidding to repair the existing 82,000 PCOS units, saying that this is "the only way" to go.
In a statement on Wednesday, January 21, Pimentel said that there is "no legal basis" for the Comelec to resort to direct contracting for the P300-million PCOS diagnostics project. (READ: Why Smartmatic got deal for PCOS repairs)
The deal "does not also level the playing field," added Pimentel.
"All procurement modes must be exhausted and opened to ensure that the contract is compliant with Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act," he said.
Poll watchdogs have asked the Comelec to scrap the P300-million deal with Smartmatic. They suspect that it was a "midnight deal," as Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr and commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph will retire on February 2.
Pimentel said that open public bidding "would afford the Comelec an opportunity to pick the best offer and secure the lowest bid for the services and products being bought by the government."
Pimentel echoed the recommendation of Comelec's own law department, as well as the dissenting opinions of two poll commissioners when the decision to approve Smartmatic's PCOS diagnostics proposal was put to a vote on December 23.
Saying that there is still plenty of time before the 2016 polls, the senator enjoined the 3 retiring officials to let their successors handle the preparations for the next elections instead.
Brillantes: No contract signed yet
For his part, Brillantes clarified that no contract has been signed yet between Comelec and Smartmatic, as negotiations to lower the price for the diagnostics are still underway.
"We have not signed a contract yet. We only came out with a resolution that says we are now accepting the offer of Smartmatic for them to do the diagnostics, examination, and minor repairs," Brillantes said in a media interview on Wednesday.
He added: "We are still negotiating for the P300 million. It is possible that we will not sign any contract if we cannot agree on the price, because we are still insisting that the price be brought down."
The Comelec chairman also confirmed that a public bidding could still take place.
Brillantes then explained that it was Smartmatic that offered an extended warranty proposal that could cost the Comelec up to P1.2 billion – P300 million for the diagnostics and P900 million for the actual repairs and post-election maintenance of the PCOS machines.
An additional P800-million offer by Smartmatic for upgrades on the PCOS machines would likely be rejected, said Brillantes, adding they "do not intend to do it anyway." – Rappler.com