The High Electoral Court of El Salvador (TSE) has opened an international public tender for the “hiring of the remote digitalization, processing, and disclosure of preliminary electoral results service for the 2014 electoral event.”
In a nutshell, the project goes like this: at the end of the voting session, the scrutiny minutes —delivered by the polling station members to the TSE operators and handed out to the political actors— are received in the National Preliminary Result Processing Center for their verification, aggregation, and online disclosure. The disclosed and aggregated minute is previously seen by all the stakeholders, so that they can immediately verify it and confirm that the results match.
At the beginning of the tender process, about 11 companies expressed their interest, but only two presented formal proposals to the electoral commission: Indra and Smartmatic.
Indra has already carried out elections in El Salvador through a direct awarding done by the same judges that are current members of the TSE. One year ago, this cost the nation 7 million dollars for the deployment of 2,200 scanners. According to the media and declarations from the political parties, the project was extremely costly, especially for a preliminary result process. For the 2 February 2014 presidential election, considering 2 electoral rounds, Indra presented a total offer of US$5,459,718. Smartmatic, a company that provides electoral technology for countries such as Belgium, Philippines, United States, Brazil, and Venezuela, was the other company participating in the tender. For the 2014 presidential election, also considering 2 electoral rounds, Smartmatic presented an offer to the TSE for $4,794,267, that is, $665,000 less than Indra’s offer.
TSE must now decide between the two companies to carry out the preliminary electoral result processing. Although in terms of costs the difference is quite clear, authorities are still considering awarding the contract to Indra.
El Salvador´s economy has been lagging behind the rest of Central America for quite some time. Poverty rate has reached 30%, and worst of all, remittances, an important source of income, are diminishing. In light of this looming economy, one would guess the decision would take cost as one of the determining factors. Especially when technologically speaking both options are similar.
To be up to international standards in electoral matters, guaranteeing transparency only on Election Day is not enough. Transparency should encompass every step leading to an election, including the selection of providers.