The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been accused of fudging the rules and preferring negotiated bids in awarding multimillion pesos worth of service and supply contracts from generic memory cards to a warehouse in a flood-prone area for the May midterm elections.
“Definitely, there is a pattern of faulty biddings by the Comelec to favor a few select bidders including Smartmatic,” said Norlito Domantay, chief executive officer of LDLA Marketing which lost the bidding for the supply of 82,200 compact flash (CF) cards for the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines despite its best bid of P33.5 million which was 28 percent below the approved budget price of P46.5 million.
Reacting to the complaints, the Comelec on Tuesday challenged losing bidders to pinpoint which rules it had supposedly bent to favor other bidders.
In an interview Tuesday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez rebuffed allegations that the Comelec special bids and awards committee (SBAC) rigged bidding rules to favor PCOS machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM particularly.
He pointed out that there were many procurement lots that did not include Smartmatic and there were also instances that it did not win.
Domantay has questioned before the Supreme Court the Comelec’s decision to award Smartmatic-TIM Corp. with the CF cards contract although it submitted the highest bid price of P50.9 million which it later reduced to P45.2 million to meet the budget price.
Domantay argued that Smartmatic should have been automatically disqualified from the bidding for exceeding the budget price in its first offer and for selling China-made generic cards when the bidding rules specifically required branded CF cards.
In its website, the Comelec said LDLA’s bid was declared ineligible in the first bidding for “failing to provide the statement of their single largest contract sworn with a notarial seal” and was also disqualified in the second bidding “due to insufficiencies in their submitted requirements.”
The Comelec also disqualified Unison Computer Systems, Inc., another bidder for the CF cards, for “failure to comply with the technical specifications and with the authentication of certifications.”
In its petition, LDLA claimed that the only reason why its CF cards could not work with Smartmatic’s PCOS machines
was because the Venezuelan firm “refused and up to this time continues to refuse to declare the technical requirements of the PCOS, claiming it to be proprietary information.”
But Jimenez said the CF cards of LDLA Marketing did not fit the slot of the PCOS machines.
“These machines are going to be ours for the next three elections and more. We’re not giving them back anymore. So if you will just use items that are not compatible with the machines, its usable life will be shortened,” he stressed.
A source said Smartmatic also won through negotiated biddings with the Comelec the P405.432-million contract to transmit the election results electronically and the P154.576-million contract for the modems where the other bidder, Mega Data Corp., was declared ineligible for “failing to satisfy all the documentary requirements.” Gil C. Cabacungan and Jocelyn R. Uy