PCOS refurbishment bidding a failure - Comelec

The bidding for the refurbishment of more than 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines was declared a failure Tuesday after none of three companies that bought bid documents made any offers. Two of them, including Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp., categorically announced they were withdrawing from the bidding, which the Comelec was forced to call after the negotiated contract it earlier awarded to Smartmatic was struck down by the Supreme Court. Smartmatic-TIM, through its president for Asia Pacific Cesar Flores, explained it withdrew because the project cost had been cut by P800 million to P2,074,088,872.92, making it no longer viable for them.

According to Atty. Jubil Surmieda, Special Bidding and Awards Committee (SBAC 2) chair, three bidders earlier bought the bid documents - Smartmatic, Vertex Business Applications and Indra Sistemas. But at Tuesday's public bidding, Smartmatic-TIM and Vertex manifested that they were withdrawing from the bidding and did not submit any bid offers. Indra Sistemas, on the other hand, simply did not make a bid offer and gave no explanation. "No one submitted bids although three bought documents. Under the rules, that is equivalent to a failure of bidding," Comelec's Surmieda declared. As a procedure, Comelec may carry out a mandatory review of the project's specifications. "We will make the necessary report to the commission, to the Steering Commitee and we wil take cue from the en banc," he said. He refused to comment when asked if the poll body will resort to a negotiated contract. The original budget for the project was P2,880,000,000 but this was lowered after a component in the contract was removed. The February 2015 decision of the Comelec, under then Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., to award without bidding the refurbishment contract to Smartmatic-TIM drew flak and triggered lawsuits. Smartmatic-TIM had leased PCOS machines to Comelec in the country's first nationally automated elections; and then sold the units to it for the 2013 midterm polls. Critics of Comelec's move to simply award Smartmatic the contract to refurbish the units it had sold the poll body had described it as grossly disadvantageous to the government. The poll body needs eight months to prepare for the May 9, 2016 general elections, and as of this week, it said there was still time, barring hitches in the process of selecting the automation system. It is considering various options, including the use of refurbished PCOS with an additional batch of optical mark readers; and a so-called hybrid system where voting and counting is manual, but transmission and canvassing is automated.
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