SC asked to nullify Smartmatic contract

THE Supreme Court has been asked to nullify a resolution of the Commission on Elections awarding the Smartmatic-TIM consortium a P6.2-billion contract for the lease of more than 70,000 optical mark readers for next year’s elections.

In a 41-page petition, Francisco S. Aguilar Jr. and Guillermo A. Santos urged the SC to issue a temporary restraining order against Comelec Resolution 9980 that was issued last August and approves the lease of 70,977 OMRs from Smartmatic for the amount of P6,286,382,682.72.

The petitioners argued that the Comelec acted with grave abuse of discretion when it issued the resolution as they called it “an act of spending splurge” that must be enjoined.

It also provides for the issuance of the Notice of Award to Smartmatic, which was declared as the bidder with the lowest calculated responsive bid, “provided that this award pertains solely to the lease of the units of Optical Mark Reader.”

The automated election system provider also bagged the contract for the lease of 23,000 OMR, which was awarded last July 31 for P1.7 billion which the government would procure to supplement the 81,896 PCOS machines to be used in the 2019 mid-term elections.

According to the petitioners, not only is taxpayers’ money being illegally, irregularly or unnecessarily spent in connection with the lease of 93,977 OMR, existing the 81,896 Precinct Count Optical Scan or PCOS machines are allowed to rot in a warehouse rented by the Comelec for P800,000 a month through non-use and lack of maintenance, refurbishment or upgrade.

“The Comelec, in leaving the 81,896 PCOS machines in the warehouse unmaintained and not refurbished to the gross disadvantage of the government, constitutes wastage of public resources or property, and thus a transgression of its fiscal responsibility,” the petitioners said.

They added that such procurement is against Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, particularly Art. II, Section 7 which provides that “all procurement shall be within the approved budget of the Procuring Entity and should be meticulously and judiciously planned by the   procuring entity concerned.

The petitioners asserted that the law prohibits procurement without an approved   Annual Procurement Plan of the procuring entity.

In the case of the 93,977 OMR, petitioner believed that it has no appropriation cover nor included in the Annual Procurement Plan of the Comelec.

“It is thus unnecessary for the latter to opt to lease 93,977 OMR to the detriment of the government and the petitioners. This is an act of spending splurge of the Commission which must be stopped by the Honorable Court,” they said.

They added that the Comelec also violated the law when it failed to consider other prospective bidders.

“What is more disturbing is the apparent preferment of the [Comelec] for Smartmatic Joint Venture... the supplier of the PCOS machines and provider of the election management system in the 2010 and 2013 national and local elections,” they pointed out.

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