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Congress looking into delays in poll machines delivery

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:19:00 01/27/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Technology (general)

MANILA, Philippines?Congress is now looking into possible violations in the P7.2 billion poll automation contract after several adjustments have been made in the delivery schedules of machines to be used in the first ever national automated elections.

Senator Fancis ?Chiz? Escudero said the changes made on the delivery date of the machines have exceeded the maximum 30-day adjustment period specified in the contract between the Commission and Elections and technology provider Smartmatic inc.

?They say there?s no delay but that?s because they keep on changing the delivery date. It is indicated in the contract that they can?t adjust for more than 30 days from the original contract date,? Escudero told reporters after a hearing by the joint congressional oversight committee on automated election system on Wednesday.

?The lawyers are looking into the first date set and they would like to know if they have exceeded the 30 day maximum adjustment period considering they are already delayed for almost three months,? said Escudero, co-chairman of the committee.

If there were indeed violations committed in the contract, the senator said, the committee would point this out to the Comelec or file necessary actions in court.

In cases of delay, the poll automation contract provides that a portion of the total amount, specifically one tenth of one percent, or about P7 million , will be deducted for each day of delay from the amount due Smartmatic.

?My problem, Atty. Tolentino, is that in the contract , although you can move deadlines, you can?t move the deadline beyond 30 days from what was originally stated in the contract but some of the adjustments made exceed already 30 days,? he said.

The senator was referring to Jose Tolentino, executive director of the Comelec.

But Tolentino attributed the changes in the delivery of machines to the delay in the awarding of the contract to Smartmatic.

The contract should have been awarded in May 2009 but because of some delays in the release of money for the poll automation project, it was only awarded to Smartmatic two months after.

There was another delay of about 51 days, Tolentino said, when a case was filed against the poll automation system.

?That?s the reason why the Comelec pursuant to the provision of the contract had to make adjustments,? he told the committee.

?The Comelec allows the parties to make changes because not all delivery schedules indicated in the contract , not al the problems had been foreseen by all the parties. So the parties may now amend them but they have to make sure the last deadline like for example in the delivery of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan), which is February 28, should still be met,? he pointed out.

Based on the last date of delivery, Tolentino said, ?Everything is still on time.?

As of Wednesday, Comelec chairman Jose Melo reported to the committee that more than 50, 000 of the 82,000 machines had been either delivered or ready for shipment to the country.

?We have the 28,900 in the warehouse in Cabuyao and 12,000 are awaiting release by the Bureau of Customs and 8,000 are in transit. 7, 200 are awaiting shipment in Shanghai so 26,000 are awaiting advise whether they are already finished and ready to be shipped,? Melo told the committee.



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