THE government’s award of a P1-billion contract to a foreign supplier of night-fighting gadgets was held in abeyance after the Commission on Audit (COA) intervened to ensure that the transaction is beyond reproach.
The commission has reportedly served notice to the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Turkey-based Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi Ve Ticaret that the projected purchase of the tactical devices was being suspended to give way for the submission of multiple documents meant to firm up the integrity of the bidding process.
The contract involved the supply of some 4,500 units of night-vision monoculars (NVMs), an equal number of infrared aiming devices and 500 pieces of laser zeroing gadgets worth P1.116 billion.
These equipment are earmarked for use by soldiers deployed to the battlefront.
The bidding was conducted in 2016 by the DND in line with the continuing modernization of the Armed Forces.
A controversy, however, hounded the bidding exercise, as some of the prospective suppliers complained about alleged lack of level playing field. The US-based bidders charged that they were virtually excluded due to the 0.85-millimeter rule on the image-intensifier tubes (IITs), a key component of the NVMs.
The American suppliers averred that a under US trade law, only IITs with a minimum halo diameter of 0.85 mm could be exported.
But the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) that conducted the bidding for the night-fighting system stood pat on its rule that only IITs with an exact 0.85-mm halo diameter were acceptable.
According to the American IIT makers, mass production of IITs to an exact halo measurement with zero margin of error is next to impossible.
The BAC ruled in favor of Aselsan for having offered the least price.
But serious questions were raised over the BAC’s decision, as Aselsan presented IITs made by the American company Harris Corp. as a component of their NVMs, prompting the COA to step in and suspend the award of the contract.
The auditors also sought the submission of more documents to ensure the integrity of the transaction.