Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rigged bidding denied in copter acquisition

By Victor Reyes
News Malaya, Wednesday, 06 October 2010

MILITARY officials yesterday dismissed allegations that technical specifications of aircraft being acquired under the Armed Forces modernization program were tailored to favor a specific supplier or manufacturer.

The bidding processes for the acquisition of seven attack helicopters for the Air Force, worth PJ.2 billion, and two multi-role helicopters for the Navy, worth P860 million, were suspended by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Allegations of collusion between defense officials and suppliers were aired last month by Representatives Teddy Casillo and Tomas Osmena during a House hearing on the DND's proposed budget for 2011.

The bids for the attack helicopters were opened last month and only one firm, PZL Swidnik of Poland, submitted an offer. The opening of bids for the Navy helicopters was supposed to be held last Monday. Swidnik is again participating in the bidding.

Swidnik, said to be the largest helicopter manufacturer in Poland, has bagged a number of DND contracts, including last year's P2.8 billion worth of eight combat utility helicopters for the Air Force.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguei Ernesto Okol said technical specifications are prepared by an Air Force project management team "based on doctrine and based on actual operational use."

Okol also noted that after completion of the preparation of the technical specifications, the output is forwarded for review of the Air Force Weapons Systems Board. This then goes to the AFP capability development planning team and then to the AFP Weapons Systems Board.

"Once it's ironed out at the AFP, meaning properly explained, this is kicked upstairs," said Okol, referring to the DND which supervises the bidding process.

"They are the ones inviting (bidders) and the Air Force is supposed to be one step backward already," he said.

"It is impossible for us to rig that (technical specifications) to cater to anybody's requirements," Okol also said.

Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, Navy spokesman, said the technical specifications for the Navy's multi-role helicopters were provided by the Navy, considering the peculiarities of Fleet-Marine operations that require such assets in the conduct of various operations, including counter-terrorism and search and rescue.

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