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Break down automation fund, Comelec told

Posted on: February 24, 2009

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20090202-187005/Break-down-automation-fund-Comelec-told

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:14:00 02/02/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Politics, State Budget & Taxes, Congress

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate reset to next week its hearing on the Commission on Elections supplemental budget for the automation of the 2010 elections after lawmakers asked on Monday for a breakdown of the funding.

The House of Representatives has approved an P11 billion budget for the computerization of the polls.

“The Comelec should offer the breakdown of the components for the automation budget such as the services for the equipment and the transmission cost, among others. The senate will not have a hearing on the plan unless a breakdown of the budget is provided to us by the Comelec,” said Senator Edgardo Angara.

During the hearing, Angara asked the Comelec to provide specific allocations for the automation budget under the estimate costing plan presented by Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino to the Senate.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo welcomed the order to provide a breakdown of the budget and would work on it over the next two days.

“The senators are asking for information to which they are entitled [to] and we will give them the breakdown of the budget,” said Melo.

“On principle, they are okay with the total amount to automate the 2010 elections but at the same time they just want details on the breakdown, which the Comelec will provide in the next hearing,” said Melo.

On the issue regarding the plan of procurement for the machines, Melo said the Comelec has not changed its position to lease the machines. For this, the Comelec will pay 70 percent of the total purchase cost of the machines amounting to P8.168 billion.

Melo added that the vendors were offering the Comelec an option to purchase the machines after its deployment in the 2010 elections. If the Comelec decides to purchase the machines, this will be the only time that the Comelec will pay the remaining 30 percent balance, he said.

“The Comelec will lease the machines period,” said Melo in stressing the poll body’s decision not to buy the machines.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said that it would be a better option for the Comelec to lease the machines because the poll body would no longer pay for other costs such as maintenance and warehousing.

Lacson cited the P3 million monthly debt the Comelec was paying to the vendor for purchasing automated machines under the term of then Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Anthony Chua III, Commission on Information and Communication Technology chairman, and member of Comelec technical Advisory group, said the outcome of Monday’s hearing was “a good sign that the bill was moving forward.”

When asked about the request of the Senate for a breakdown of the budget before the resumption of the hearing, Chua said, “It is a reasonable request.”

He added: “When you are dealing with this amount of budget it is reasonable to justify that to the authorities because you have to be responsible for that.”

“Right now time is of the essence, we have a lot to accomplish before we can automate the elections so we have to get started with the procurement over the next month or so. The sooner we can get the budget, the sooner we can start working,” said Chua.

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