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Solon wants to know why contractor submitted losing bid for poll machines

A lawmaker wants Indra Sistemas S.A. to explain why it participated in the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) bidding for new voting machines for the 2016 elections despite allegedly knowing that it will lose.
In a privilege speech Tuesday, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga wondered if Indra deliberately submitted a losing bid offer to the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) last month in an attempt to jeopardize next year’s elections.
According to Barzaga, Indra submitted a bid of P3.69 billion for the new precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and other election equipment, which is P1.18 billion higher than the P2.5 billion approved budget for the contract (ABC). 
Section 31 of RA 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, states that the ABC shall be the upper limit or ceiling for the bid prices. The law provides for the outright disqualification of bidders whose bid prices exceed the ceiling.
“Alam naman lahat ng mga bidders na kapag ang kanilang bid ay mas mataas sa ABC, sigurado silang idi-disqualify ng Bids and Awards Committee. Ang hindi ko maisip ay kung bakit ang Indra na laging nababanggit sa mga pahayag ay very qualified sa automated election system ay magbibigay ng isang bid na mas mataas ng mahigit sa isang bilyon sa Approved Budget for the Contract,” Barzaga said. 
“Is Indra really serious in participating in the public bidding or does it have another agenda? Is Indra making a mockery of our electoral processes? Or is Indra as well as its advocates are really planning for a return to manual counting with automatic transmission of the results?” he asked.
Comelec has disqualified Indra and its rival company, Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) from participating in the bid for purportedly submitting defective bids.
The poll body admitted that the preparation period for the 2016 national election might be set back by one to two months if a failure of bidding is eventually declared. 
Smartmatic, the supplier of PCOS machines for the 2010 and 2013 elections, was faulted by the BAC for failing to indicate the price for certain items in its bid, with a hyphen placed in lieu of a certain price.
In the company’s defense, Smartmatic-TIM president Cesar Flores said they only followed the format indicated in a Comelec resolution on electronic bidding.
Section 12.1a of the Guidelines for Electronic Bidding (E-Bidding) in GPPB Resolution No. 23-2013 states that “where a required item is provided, but no price is indicated, the same shall be considered as non-responsive, but specifying a “0” (zero) or dash (-) for the said item would mean that it is being offered for free to the Government.”
Since the use of the dash symbol as an alternative to zero is legal, Barzaga said he is curious to know why BAC disqualified Smartmatic’s bid. He said preparations for the 2016 elections would not have been put in jeopardy had the BAC considered Smartmatic’s proposal. 
“In the first place, the planning and preparations for the 2016 automated elections should not have been delayed by one to two months since there is no need for a second bidding considering that one of the bids should have been declared as responsive," he said.
"Hence, the circumstances by which Comelec decided to disqualify a bidder raises more questions that the BAC and the Comelec as a whole must answer squarely in order not to jeopardize the May 2016 elections or at the very least the required preparations,” the lawmaker added.
Barzaga has asked the House committee on suffrage and electoral reform to investigate the BAC’s conduct of the bid. —NB, GMA News