AMA backs out; Comelec to award contract next week
AMA Group Holdings and Election Systems and Software Inc. (ES&S) on Saturday chickened out of the competition to bag the Comelec P11.2 billion poll automation contract, leaving as the lone bidder the consortium of Smartmatic International and Total Information Management Corp. (TIM).
The Filipino-American joint venture, the last and remaining competitor in contention against Smartmatic/TIM, bowed out from the contest in a motion filed with the Special Bids and Awards Committee on Saturday.
With Smartmatic/TIM left with no competitor, the Comelec was expected to award the contract next week.
In the motion, AMA/ES&S expressed dismay at the allege slow pace of the bidding process—now into its fourth week and about two weeks behind the original schedule pegged by Comelec to award the contract to fully automate the 2010 elections.
This developed as on Friday the Comelec said it was close to awarding the contract, after Smartmatic/TIM hurdled with flying colors the 26-point criteria in technical tests of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines of the consortium which has offered a bid of P7 billion or P4 billion less than the bid price.
AMA/ES&S spiced up its motion with harsh words against Comelec, in what is seen as a vote of no-confidence in the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) which supervised the bidding.
AMA/ES&S said the SBAC was inconsistent and breached its own rules on bid bulletins that made it difficult for them to comply with the eligibility, technical, and financial documents. AMA/ES&S backed out of the race as the SBAC was waiting for the joint venture to comply with the documents—after AMA/ES&S filed a motion for reconsideration to contest an earlier disqualification.
AMA/ES&S said it “recognized the sincerity of the SBAC and its members in their common desire to avoid the past mistakes of past failed biddings.”
But it said it no longer feels confident in the integrity of the
“With much regret, AMA/ES&S is compelled to withdraw its Motion for Reconsideration,” the consortium said in a two-page resolution.
It said it appreciates the transparency observed by the SBAC in an
attempt to make the process competitive.
But AMA/ES&S pointed out alleged inconsistencies in the process. ” We agree with the views expressed by the other bidders that the SBAC changed the requirements too late into the process, that it was inconsistent with its rulings, and that it was unfamiliar with the documents required to be submitted as part of the bid,” it said in the motion.
NO LONGER INTERESTED
Johnny Ramos, AMA’s project director, and John Groh, senior vice-president of the Nebraska-based ES&S, signed the manifestation after reaching agreement to bow out of the race on Saturday. “We are not interested anymore,” Ramos told reporters after filing the motion.
Before it pulled out of the bidding, AMA/ES&S was the only other entity in the bidding race with Smartmatic/TIM.
Seven consortia submitted bid documents on May 4, but most of them were eventually disqualified for lack of documents or actual experience in poll automation.
AMA/ES&S had been declared ineligible thrice for eligibility and technical deficiencies but SBAC accepted its motion for reconsideration to rejoin the bidding process.
But AMA/ES&S on Saturday filed its withdrawal from the bidding before SBAC could act on the motion for reconsideration.
SBAC chairman Ferdinand Rafanan dismissed the company’s vote of no-confidence on the panel. “Confidence is on a personal level. It’s from one group, one bidder, we cannot prevent (it saying) that,” he said.
Rafanan however speculated on why AMA/ES&S chickened out. raising the possibility that the consortium ran away from the race because it could not match the P7.2 billion bid of Smartmatic/TIM.
Rafanan said if this is the case, AMA/ES&S would merely lose the race, even if SBAC accepted its bid that is higher than Smartmatic/TIM.
“If their bid is lower, we will open their machines. But if their bid is higher, we won’t open it anymore,” he explained.
Rafanan said the machines of the Netherlands-based Smartmatic and Filipino information technology solutions provider TIM has passed the technical tests—with 100 percent accuracy— conducted the past few days.
While SBAC was ready to award the contract to Smartmatic/TIM, SBAC is still to complete the last of the bidding process—which is to subject the documents of Smartmatic and TIM in a post-qualification screening and scrutiny.
The scrutiny includes SBAC’s interest about the corporate relationship between Smartmatic and the company that will manufacture the voting and counting machines.
SBAC would like to determine if Smartmatic actually owns the
company or not, which would make it ineligible to bid. Under the law, the manufacture of the counting machines and software cannot be subcontracted to another party, said Rafanan.
Rafanan said the SBAC would submit its recommendations on the winning bidder to the commission en banc next week.
After that, the winning bidder would be again tested to ensure that its machines and software are in working order.