Time for LTO to proceed with the bidding of license cards

LATELY, there have been a lot of controversies surrounding the plan of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to change the make of the present driver’s license from that of plastic to one that uses paper as a major component.

At present, the driver’s license cards are supplied and sourced from the existing supplier on a monthly “quantum meruit” basis.

Quantum meruit basis simply means that driver’s license cards were supplied and correspondingly paid on a monthly basis. Obviously, the LTO has to resort to this mode  to avert the possible shortage of driver’s license cards as it tries to resolve various contentious issues being raised by vested interest groups and the bidders themselves who for obvious reasons would want the contract to go to them.

When Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres assumed her post last July, she immediately buckled down to work and ordered the review of all existing contracts and transactions of the agency including among others the bidding for the supply of driver’s license cards.

When it became clear that Torres wants to upgrade the driver’s license cards, surprisingly, she was met with stiff opposition from both the bidders and the non-bidders alike.

But what was more striking is the fact that the opposition did not come from the current supplier who is supposed to be directly affected of the proposed new bidding, but from other bidders who want to change the terms of reference that would favor their ends.

And ironically, even a non-bidder like the Audio Video and Lights System that poses itself as a bidder is becoming one of the most aggressive and vocal opponents of the proposed bidding for the supply of the new license cards.

Actually, Torres was convinced that a change in the material of card is needed after she received numerous complaints about the PVC card that it easily breaks as well as prematurely fades resulting to disappearing pictures and data prints.

Also, the present license card can be easily counterfeited, forged and falsified.

As a stop gap measure, the LTO replaced defective cards with new ones without cost to the driver.

With these in mind, the LTO, through its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), assisted by the Technical Working Group, determined that driver’s license cards had to be made from materials other than PVC.

From the research beginning October 2009 and pre-procurement conference held last May 12 this year, the LTO determined that cards made of predominantly paper material were a better option.

Unlike plastic cards with shiny solid surface, paper cards, made of porous surface, allowed the ink to penetrate and remain a permanent part of the card.

Paper cards allowed for more security features to be incorporated in the design just like security paper and bank notes.

They can also be made as durable as PVC cards but more pliant aside from the fact that they are more environmentally friendly as they are biodegradable.

For the record, the original terms of reference was approved by then Asst. Sec. Arturo Lomibao sometime February 2010.

Then, Asst. Sec. Alberto Suansing, upon his assumption as the new LTO head, ordered a review of the technical specifications of the paper card. Finding the same in order, he approved the specification and ordered the tender of the driver’s license.

The project was denominated as the “Supply and Delivery of Philippine Driver’s License Cards for CY 2011” with an Approved Budget Cost of PhP508,223,000.00.

The eligibility requirements in the original terms of reference were meant to insure that all bidders, including the winning bidder, are all reputable, financially stable, and experienced suppliers.

LTO published the Invitation to Bid from 24 to 31 May 2010 both at the PhilGEPS and LTO websites.

Ten (10) bidders responded and bought the bid documents for PhP84,000.00 each. A pre-bid conference was held at the Bulwagang Edu of the LTO last 04 June 2010.

The bidders raised several questions relating to the material of the driver’s license cards, budget, database required and potential impairment of the existing LTO IT BOO contract.

More importantly, the issue raised on the alleged railroading of the project as a midnight deal by the past administration prompted the issuance by the LTO BAC of Bid Bulletin No. 2 declaring indefinite suspension of the bidding.

During the period of suspension, the new administration assumed office and the present Assistant Secretary Torres was appointed LTO Chief.

Upon her instructions, a review of the terms of reference was made. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) also approved the National Expenditure Program (NEP) of the LTO which included the budget for the driver’s license project.

To ensure fair and competitive bidding, the terms of reference were revised removing several vendor specific provisions and specific quality certifications.

In as much as the current LTO leadership has already complied with all the necessary requirements, I believe that there is no more reason why the bidding for the supply of new license cards should further be delayed just because of the caprice and wills and whims of some vested groups and individuals. Open Line/Bobby Ricohermoso

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