By Dona Z. Pazzibugan | Inquirer.net
The only company interested in the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) P600-million contract to provide 10,000 more vote-counting machines for next year’s elections has backed out.
Smartmatic-Total Information Management Inc., the country’s automated election systems provider since 2010, said it would have to withdraw from the bidding process because the budget approved last August had become too low because of the ongoing global computer chip shortage.
“We have given the procurement documents a thorough study, trying to find ways to comply with all the requirements within the approved budget,” Smartmatic representative Filipinas Ordoño said in a letter that Comelec’s special bids and awards committee head Allen Abaya read aloud during the scheduled opening of bids on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, we have determined that the budget is not sufficient to cover all of Comelec’s conditions stated in the (terms of reference),” the letter added.
Smartmatic said the pandemic led to an “acute global shortage in electronic components, which has driven up costs to unprecedented levels of 20 percent to 25 percent, and a sharp rise in logistics cost, which had hit 200 percent in the last year.”
The company, however, said it could participate in another bidding “if the budget allocation is adjusted … to address these pandemic-caused cost increases.”
Consequently, Abaya declared a failure of bidding on Thursday and said the poll body would consider Smartmatic’s points when they review the project.
Saying it needed more vote-counting machines for more clustered polling precincts to lower the number of voters per precinct and minimize crowding during elections, the Comelec opened a bidding for the lease of 10,000 voting machines to be used in the May 9, 2022, elections.