Monday, January 26, 2015

‘P300-M PCOS deal overpriced’

A member of the advisory council of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday revealed that the P300-million contract awarded to Smartmatic for the “diagnosis” of 82,000 old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines was grossly overpriced.
Angel Averia Jr., president of the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PhCERT) and member of the Comelec advisory council, said it would have been better if the poll body held a public bidding for the project.
“Using industry standard sa IT, yung quotation ng Smartmatic for P300 million is overpriced . . . mataas masyado ang quote,” he said in a radio interview. He explained that the annual maintenance rate of warranty for brand new computers ranges between 12 percent and 16 percent of unit cost.
“Ito second hand, lumalabas na yung P300 million na quotation for the diagnostics alone is 16.67 percent nung over P1.8-billion [contract] e second hand nga siya. Ang sinasabi ko na 12 percent to 16 percent, annual maintenance yun,” he explained.
“Pag sinasabing annual maintenance may guarantee na parts replacement kasama services, eh ito, diagnostics pa lang. Di pa kasama yung parts replacement kung may papalitang pyesa,” he added.
At P300 million, he said the diagnostic cost per unit of the 82,000 PCOS is a hefty P3,600.
The counting machines which were used in the 2010 polls were bought by the Comelec for P1.8 billion. They will again be used for the 2016 national elections.
On December 23, 2014, the Comelec issued a resolution approving Smartmatic’s P300 million offer to diagnose the 82,000 PCOS machines used in the 2010 and 2013 polls.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the contract only covered the diagnostics of the counting machines.
However, Averia insisted that it would be best for the poll body to bid out the contract since other companies are also capable of doing maintenance work on the machines.
“Jinujustify nang mabuti ng Comelec kung bakit walang bidding. Pinapalabas nila na valid pa yung lease contract, eh para sa akin, legal gymnastics yun para ma-extend ang contract,” he said.
“May mga companies naman who are competent enough to do the maintenance. If that is bidded out, there will be observers who will watch the process, in this case, there is none,” he added.
Brillantes had said that they decided not to hold a public bidding for the diagnostics because Smartmatic, being the supplier of the PCOS machines, is in the best position to discover glitches in the machines.
Two commissioners, Luie Tito Guia and Arthur Lim, dissented from the majority opinion in the awarding of the contract to Smartmatic.
Guia said the refurbishment of the PCOS machines should be done through competitive public bidding as mandated by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.
“Transparency is key to gaining public trust and confidence in elections. Public bidding affords the public opportunity to observe the procurement phase of election preparation,” Guia said.
He also reiterated the earlier recommendation of the Comelec law department in November last year that pushed for the bidding of the refurbishment contract.
Various groups have also assailed the Comelec for its decision to award the contract to Smartmatic, describing it a midnight deal shepherded by Brillantes and senior commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph.

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