Comelec may get new IT provider, other than Smartmatic, in next polls
MANILA, Philippines—The postponement of next month’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao polls may have virtually quashed the dreams of the Smartmatic Philippines to be the exclusive automated election service provider in the Philippines.
“No more. They’ll have to compete [with other providers] in 2013,” Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters when asked if the poll body would still be contracting Smartmatic for future elections in the country.
Smartmatic and its partner, Total Information Management Inc., won the P7-billion contract for the May 2010 national and local elections. The consortium produced some 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan machines for the exercise.
The use of the PCOS machines, however, was opposed by some politicians, election watchdogs and information technology groups who claimed the units were vulnerable to fraud. They have been clamoring for the right to inspect the source code, or the software program used to run the machines.
A few days before elections, Smartmatic caused a stir by recalling and replacing the compact flash cards that contained the tallying software of the PCOS machines.
One of the opponents of the PCOS machines is the newly appointed Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman.
A random manual audit of the results from the PCOS machines also fell short of the accuracy specifications set by the Comelec.
The Smartmatic technology also has yet to be reviewed by the congressional oversight committee, which is mandated by law to review the automation service in the previous election to determine whether the technology could still be used for the subsequent elections.
The Congress earlier this week voted to postpone the ARMM elections set on Aug. 8 and synchronize it with the May 2013 mid-term polls.
Originally, the Comelec planned to buy 4,000 PCOS machines for the automated ARMM polls as it did not have enough time to look for a new service provider by conducting a new bidding. At the height of the debate on the postponement bill in Congress, however, the poll body decided to conduct the elections manually.
Brillantes disclosed that the Smartmatic was still trying to collect dues from Comelec worth around P500 million.
“They’re weeping because they lost the ARMM polls and then we haven’t paid them in full yet. We’re still negotiating. They’re trying to collect an amount which we don’t want to pay,” he explained.
The chair said Comelec would only pay P108 million of the P500 million still being collected by Smartmatic. He said talks have also been ongoing for the settlement of another P177-million demand of Smartmatic
“We’ll be bickering for about P200 million,” he said, adding that the dispute over the payment stemmed from “deficiencies” in the PCOS machines and the services provided by Smartmatic during the 2010 elections.
“We withheld payment due to the damages we incurred. But now that the elections in ARMM has been postponed, they will now have time to collect dues,” he added.
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