Monday, December 21, 2009

Real reason for poll counting machines delay bared

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials on Thursday virtually acknowledged Smartmatic-TIM’s failure to deliver the agreed first batch of 42,000 units of counting machines for the May 2010 polls due to production constraints of the manufacturing subcontractor in Shanghai, China.

Comelec chair Jose Melo earlier said that Smartmatic-TIM could only deliver 30,000 this month because of the high shipping costs due to the holidays.

But in Thursday’s hearing of the joint Congressional oversight committee on automation, it was disclosed that Smartmatic has only manufactured 30,000 units this month, not 40,000 as earlier announced.

Initially, Comelec officials stuck to the alibi that the first batch of 40,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines may not arrive as scheduled because of delivery problems.

“It is actually a delivery problem because of the lack of maritime vessels that would bring the PCOS from Shanghai to Manila. It is Christmas season and everything comes from China,” Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino said when asked whether it is delivery or manufacturing problem that causing the delay in the automation project.

But when pressed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman whether the 40,000 to be delivered this December were already manufactured and ready for shipping, Tolentino backtracked.

Tolentino admitted that only 30,000 have been produced so far, and that the 10,000 units are still to be manufactured.

“We have a team that went to Shanghai, and based on the production run that was conducted, the spare parts available at the manufacturing plant, it's correct that more or less about 30,000 will be available by December,” Tolentino said.

Under the P7.1 billion contract signed between Comelec and Smartmatic, the latter is supposed to produce 82,200 PCOS machines for the country’s first ever nationwide polls.

The machines were supposed to be delivered in two batches, with the first batch of 40,000 last November.

However, only 9,800 would be delivered this month, and another 20,200 units after the holiday rush.

Revised timetable

Smartmatic, however, maintains that the delays in the automation project pertained only to delivery problems.

In spite of the apparent production problems, Comelec is optimistic that Smartmatic would be able to complete the manufacture of machines by February.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that based on a revised timetable, Smartmatic will be able to beat the deadline of the delivery of machines by one week.

Concerns have been raised over Smartmatic’s failure to beat its deadline in the delivery of machines, which is causing a domino effect on Comelec’s timetable.

The field testings and mock elections should have been held last November and this month, but the lack of machines prompted Comelec to revise its schedule.

The Comelec has also yet to start training teachers and poll officials on poll automation.



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