2022 Philippine Elections

Smartmatic inches closer to bagging 2022 Comelec deal on lease of VCMs

Dwight de Leon
Why is this contract important? For the 2022 pandemic polls, the Comelec must acquire 10,000 VCMs in order to add more polling precincts and reduce the number of voters in each of them.

Technology firm Smartmatic – which has secured over P2.255 billion ($44.789 million) in deals so far for the 2022 Philippine elections – may secure another multimillion-peso contract for next year’s vote, this time for the lease of 10,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs).

Smartmatic underwent post-qualification process after tendering a bid of P863.971 million ($17.154 million) during the second round of bidding on Friday, November 19.

The contract has an approved budget of P864.024 million ($17.165 million), which was an increase from the original maximum budget for the contract of P600.503 million ($11.925 million) during the first round of bidding in September.

Smartmatic – the only firm to purchase bidding documents – did not submit a bidding proposal to the poll body at the time, citing the insufficient budget by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“The pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain servicing the electronic sector resulting in huge backlogs in the manufacturing process,” Smartmatic’s authorized representative Filipinas Ordono had said. “[This] has led to an acute global shortage in electronic components, which has driven up costs to unprecedented levels of 20% to 25%.”

Aside from the lease of VCMs, the winner of the P864-million contract will also be tasked to supply and deliver SD cards for the machines.

After the second round of bidding on Friday, Smartmatic must submit within five days its latest income and business tax returns and other necessary documents to the special bids and awards committee as part of the post-qualification process.

Why does this contract matter?

For the 2022 elections, the Comelec has a goal of reducing the number of voters assigned per precinct to 800 from 1000 in the 2019 polls, largely due to COVID-19 risks.

In order to do that, the election body must lease 10,000 VCMs, which in effect will increase the number of polling precincts.

Currently, the Comelec has 97,345 VCMs, which has been the subject of refurbishment, a project led by Smartmatic after winning the P637-million contract for that in June.

Some lawmakers had wanted the Comelec to further reduce the number of voters per precinct to 600, but the poll body cited budget constraints as to why that would be difficult to achieve.

How big of a role will Smartmatic play in 2022?

Smartmatic has already secured four contracts in connection with the May 9, 2022 vote, amounting to P2.255 billion.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • P1.053-billion ($20.914 million) contract for the procurement of secure electronic transmission services
  • P637.443-million ($12.658 million) contract for the refurbishment of VCMs
  • P402.725-million ($7.997 million) contract for the procurement of an automated election software
  • P162.088 million ($3.218 million) contract for the lease of external batteries of VCMs

If the Comelec issues a notice of award to Smartmatic for the lease of VCMs, the solutions provider’s 2022 election-related deals would be worth over P3.1 billion.

Smartmatic has bagged the most Comelec contracts since the Philippines shifted to automated elections in 2010. The firm claims it is 100% privately owned and has no ties to political groups.

Election irregularities, the most recent in 2019, have damaged the credibility of Smartmatic. These include a delayed transmission of election results to the transparency server, now infamously known as the seven-hour glitch.

However, despite criticisms against Smartmatic, random manual audits of the 2016 and 2019 elections – where independent auditors manually tallied votes and compared the results with machine tallies – yielded an accuracy rate of over 99%. – Rappler.com

$1 = P50.36