Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. is asking why the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had disqualified the only two bidders for the P2.5 billion contract to supply additional automated vote counting machines for the 2016 elections.
Barzaga, in his capacity as vice chairperson of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms of the House of Representatives, said in a privilege speech that the Comelec’s move to set a second bidding for the contract was “suspicious.”
The two companies which took part in the bidding—Smartmatic-TIM and Indra Sistemas—were both disqualified based on different grounds.
Smartmatic was disqualified on a technicality after it submitted documents that did not indicate prices on certain items or did not use zeroes – but only dashes – on its figures.
Indra, on the other hand, was disqualified for submitting a bid of P3.6 billion, higher than the Comelec requirement to supply some 23,000 OMR machines, according to news reports.
“Why declare a failure of bidding when in fact, it is evident that one of the bids is responsive, and there is in fact a winning bid? Is it intentional to delay the preparations and planning which could eventually raise more questions on the transparency of the conduct of the 2016 elections? Will this lead to the 2016 elections being in peril?” Barzaga said in his privilege speech.
Barzaga is the vice president for external affairs of the National Unity Party (NUP).
He pointed out that the issuances of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB), the set of rules that govern the public bidding for state projects, show that Smartmatic’s bid was acceptable.
The GPPB rules and issuances have long allowed the use of dashes or hyphens in place of zeroes, Barzaga noted.
“There is no need for a second bidding considering that one of the bids should have been declared as responsive,” Barzaga said.
The Comelec is bidding out the contract to supply additional vote counting machines to augment the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) units that it bought from Smartmatic. The additional machines are necessary due to the projected increase in the numbers of voters in 2016.
With 56 million voters expected in 2016, the Comelec is targeting 800 voters per clustered precinct if the additional machines are purchased or leased in time for the 2016 elections.
But with only 82,000 PCOS units, each clustered precinct will have to accommodate 1,200 to 1,400 voters next year.