Poll machines will now be made in China, not Taiwan

by Aries Rufo, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Oct 30 2009 05:27 PM | Updated as of Oct 31 2009 01:42 AM

Smartmatic picks new subcontractor for PCOS machines

MANILA - Is it a violation of the poll automation contract?

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ordered Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) to explain its contract with a Shanghai-based company after the winning consortium informed the government about a change in the firm that will produce the poll automation machines.

Smartmatic-TIM, which bagged the project to modernize the May 2010 polls, appears to have subcontracted to yet another firm the order to manufacture the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

It informed the Comelec this week that Qisdi, an electronics firm, will now be manufacturing the machines under the supervision of its subsidiary, Taiwan-based Jarl-tech.

In the bidding to automate the polls, one of the credentials presented by the Barbados-based Smartmatic was that Jarl-tech would manufacture the PCOS machines. In its website, Smartmatic said it has been working with Jarl-tech since 2004.

Other bidders, however, questioned the inclusion of a third party, Jarl-tech, to the poll automation project, but Comelec still awarded the project to Smartmatic.

Can Smarmatic-TIM comply?

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel wants an explanation for the sudden change in the foreign company subcontracted to manufacture the voting machines, saying it casts doubts on whether Smartmatic-TIM can comply with the contract.

Pimentel pointed out that under the automation contract, Smartmatic-TIM should start delivering the machines by November, and that 12,000 units should be at Comelec’s doorstep by that time.

He said Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM have not been forthright on how the change would set back the delivery and deployment of the machines to the different precincts.

“There was an admission from Smartmatic that this could affect the timetable for manufacturing and delivering the voting machines. However, it looks like they were not forthright and accurate enough in assessing fully the consequences of the problem….If this problem is so grave so as to put the entire automation project in peril, they should not keep the information to themselves,” Pimentel said.

Under the automation project, Smartmatic should deliver to Comelec 82,200 voting machines, with the last batch to be delivered in February 2010.

Pimentel is asking the joint congressional committee to set a hearing to look into the status of the preparations for poll automation.

No violation, says Rafanan

Comelec law department chair Ferdinand Rafanan, who chaired the Special Bids and Awards Committee on poll automation, agreed that tapping yet another manufacture is essentially “an amendment” to the original contract.

However, he said there is no violation since Jarl-tech “will still be directing and supervising the manufacture of the machines.”
Under the set-up, “Jarl-tech will only use the facilities of Qisda,” Rafanan told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak

Rafanan said Smartmatic had to move the manufacture of the voting machines in Shanghai after Jarl-tech’s facilities were affected by the successive typhoons, including Ondoy (Ketsana), which also passed through Taiwan. Ondoy's poured one month's volume of rain on Metro Manila in less than 24 hours.

Still, the Comelec has ordered Smartmatic to submit Qisda’s credentials, like its ISO certification. The Comelec en banc, he said, is studying whether there is a violation.

Smarmatic explains why

Reached for comment, Smartmatic spokesman Gene Gregorio said the move from Jarl-tech to Qisda is a strategic one since “the company has bigger and better facilities.”

He added: “Also, the place is not susceptible to adverse effects of climate change.”

Based on its website, Qisda is a service provider of electronic products for consumer, commercial, industrial & lifestyle applications. Its product offering ranges from LCD monitors & monitor-TV, All-in-One PC, e-signage & industrial displays, projectors, mini-photo scanners, multifunctional printers, mobile communications devices, healthcare electronics, automobile electronics, portable display devices, to LED lighting fixtures.

”The main headquarters is in Taiwan, with several global manufacturing sites, including in Shanghai, China,” Quisda's website site says.  The Shanghai manufacturing site produces mobile phones and wireless communication gadgets.