Comelec panel disqualifies lone bidder for poll machine refurbishment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — It was a make-or-break bidding which would decide whether the government will get to reuse over 81,000 vote counting machines used in past elections or lease more than 70,000 new ones.

The manufacturer of the existing machines, Smartmatic, did not place a bid.

It sent a letter informing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that it cannot deliver the refurbished machines by the January 2016 deadline.

Smartmatic Asia President Cesar Flores earlier told CNN Philippines that it might be too late to prepare the existing machines.

“It is almost impossible to refurbish the PCOS with the timeline set by Comelec. Comelec really has to decide quickly because we are running out of time,” said Flores.

A joint venture led by the Germany-based firm Dermalog was the only company that submitted a bid on the deadline, Saturday morning (August 1).

The poll body’s technical working group went through Dermalog’s documents and sample items. It turned out that the company failed to include credit line certificates, plans for sourcing labor, sample ballots and SD cards in their submission.

The Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee declared Dermalog ineligible to bid and gave the company three days to file a motion for reconsideration.

The Commission has admitted several times that it is now pressed for time after their process of procuring the machines for next year’s polls kept getting pushed back.

This bidding for the P3 billion refurbishment project is already on its second round. The first round in June failed when no company placed a bid. The ceiling price then was P2 billion.

So what happens now?

The Comelec panel said once Dermalog submits its motion they will decide within seven days whether to allow the company to bid anyway. Otherwise, the poll body may choose to just hire a contractor without a bidding or lease 70,000 new machines.

Whichever it will be, they vowed to decide by the second week of August.