The Manila Times - Election contract violated by National Printing Office

News & Interviews
16 May 2019

By William Depasupil | The Manila Times

Comelec halts payment of P1.4B due agency, three others

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) will withhold some P1.4 billion due to suppliers, including the government-owned National Printing Office (NPO), following problems that marred the May 13 midterm polls.

The bulk of the money to be withheld was to go to Nextix Inc., the supplier of the voters registration verification machines (VRVMs) that were pilot-tested on Monday.

Reported failures that prompted election officials to resort to manual identification mean the company will not be immediately receiving the P987.1 million it is owed.

The NPO, meanwhile, allegedly subcontracted the printing of voter’s information sheets (VIS) in violation of Commission on Audit rules, Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon said.

The sub-contractee, identified as the Holy Family Printing Press, also committed mistakes that could have affected the outcome of the elections had the Comelec not found the errors and halted distribution of the VIS, she added.

“The numbering of candidates was wrong,” Guanzon said. “I would also have to check if the errors were unintentional or deliberate.”

At P4 each for 61 million voter’s information sheets, the Comelec was to have paid the NPO a total of P244 million.

Another P158.8 million and P22.6 million to be paid to marking pen supplier Triplex Enterprises Inc. and the secure digital (SD) memory card provider, a joint venture between S1 Technologies Inc. and the Silicon Valley Computer Group, will also be withheld pending a review of their contracts, Guanzon said.

“Bleeding” pens forced the Comelec to distribute replacements days before the polls were held.

On election day itself, meanwhile, numerous vote counting machines (VCMs) malfunctioned, allegedly due to low-quality SD cards.

On Tuesday, the Comelec reported that 961 VCMs and 1,665 SD cards had to be replaced, higher than the 801 and 201, respectively, recorded during the 2016 presidential elections.

Still, officials said that the defective VCMs accounted for such 1.1 percent of the 85,769 used while the damaged SD cards comprised 1.9 percent of the total.

NPO officials and representatives of Nextix, Triplex and the S1 and Silicon Valley joint venture were not immediately available for comment.