Here’s another view on the issue of purchase vs. lease of automated election machines.
IF THE ISSUE was only about economics, the Comelec knows what it must do: Go for the P2-billion purchase.
Banal obviously believes that the purchase option is “cheap.”
But is it really? What if the machines come in such a way that only Smartmatic can operate them? If so, then a purchase by Comelec now, in preparation for 2013, sets up a situation where Comelec’s hands are tied. The Comelec would then have to deal with only one software vendor and only one entity that can train personnel or operate the machines. That entity is – (drum rolls) – Smartmatic. In the bargaining for the cost of auxiliary services, Comelec cannot later complain that the price is “too high.”
What is the solution that protects the public interest?
One, make sure that the price at purchase is reasonable. I believe that the advance of technology will make the machines obsolete and therefore very cheap. They should go for about $100 per machine, and not $400 as in the original Smartmatic contract. The reasonable price should therefore be of the order of $8.6 million, or P400 million, and not P2 billion mentioned by Banal.
Two, make sure that the machines are “open.” This would be like buying a cell phone that is not blocked to any one cell phone company. That way, any smart Filipino IT company can bid to produce software and provide training and other auxiliary services. Competition would then drive the price of such auxiliary services to reasonable levels.
Note: I previously wrote about the economics of lease vs. purchase.