Ex-commissioner wants Smartmatic out of Comelec projects

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Around 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines need refurbishment and upgrade for the 2016 general elections

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The government needs about 100,000 thousand vote-counting machines for next year's national elections.

To get them, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has put to a bid three contracts.

The first one is for the refurbishment and upgrade of some 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in the 2010 and 2013 national elections — worth over P2 billion.

The second contract is for the lease of 23,000 new optical mark reader (OMR) machines, which costs P2.5 billion.

And a third contract for the lease of 70,977 OMR machines pegged at P7.8 billion.

This third contract is a contingency — in case the refurbishment contract doesn't work out.

After Tuesday's bidding (June 30), the London-based company, Smartmatic, ended up being the only bidder for both the 23,000 and the 70,000 plus machine lease contracts.

The only other bidder — Indra Sistemas — was disqualified for submitting the wrong documents.

No company placed a bid for the refurbishment deal — after Comelec slashed about a third of the offer price.

Former election commissioner and IT expert Augusto "Gus" Lagman says he is worried because he disagreed with how Smartmatic performed in the last two national polls.

"Ang dami nilang, maraming hindi naging compliant sa dalawang eleksyon na nakaraan. Walang ka-transparency-transparency yung eleksyon," Lagman said.

[They were not compliant in the past two elections. There was no transparency.]

He says Smartmatic and Comelec failed to show the details of the canvassing results from the automated elections.

"Ang clamor nga namin dyan ay i-blacklist ang Smartmatic from ever bidding for any Comelec project."

However, Smartmatic says they won the bids fairly.

"There were other companies and we still managed to provide the lowest price in a competitive technological proposal. So, I mean, we won fair and square everytime we face competition.

On Friday (July 3), Smartmatic finished presenting the new machines they plan to lease — a formality before the Comelec awards the contracts by July 30.

But Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista says they are still considering all options.

This includes upgrading and refurbishing the existing PCOS machines, which Smartmatic says they are still willing to do — if the price is right.