Five officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) office in Cebu province comprising its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) are set to face a criminal suit for allegedly conducting an anomalous bidding on the purchase of school furniture.
An Akbayan representative to the Lower House identified the officials allegedly involved as Judiana Corriente, chairperson of BAC and Assistant Cebu Provincial Superintendent; Romualdo Abella, Education Supervisor 1; Daria Sarsalejo, Naga Division Supervisor; Norberto Torbeso, Division Supervisor; and Willie Adonay, District Supervisor in Argao.
Akbayan Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel has filed a resolution in the House of Representatives to direct the House committee on good government, basic education, and other appropriate House committees to conduct an inquiry on the alleged abuse of discretion committed by the DepEd Cebu Province bids and awards committee. The controversy involves the procurement of P17 million worth of desks and armchairs.
The resolution was filed after AKBAYAN reportedly received several complaints from principals and property custodians of public elementary and high schools in Cebu regarding the sub-standard desk and armchairs delivered to their schools by Gala Industries Incorporated.
DepEd in Region 7 conducted three biddings for the supply and delivery of school furniture for school years 2006, 2007 and 2008. Gala Industries won the bidding.
On the first bidding, the winning company was disqualified allegedly due to non-compliance of some requirements which are not specified in the bidding requirements set by RA No. 9184 and the Bids and Awards Committee. On the second bidding, another winning company was later declared ineligible because some of its documents were allegedly not duly authenticated, but a certificate of authenticity was reportedly submitted to the BOC.
For the 2007 bidding, the winning company was disqualified allegedly due to some entry errors. On this case, the duly published invitation to bid announced six lots merged into one bidding lot which increased the price ceiling and limited the bidding to four companies. Gala Industries then won the 2007 bidding.
Ernie Edralin of Akbayan said that DepEd gave the winning bidder specifications on the kind of desks and armchairs to be supplied and delivered to public schools. DepEd specified the type of wood, color and the wood screw to be used on the said furniture. But the property custodians of schools were not given copies of the said specifications.
“Looked second hand”
Edralin said however that Gala Industries provided the schools with armchairs with no arms and desks which were not varnished. He said low-grade wood was use to build them and ordinary nails or umbrella nails were used instead of wood screws. He said Akbayan found the sub-standard materials after they inspected 15 schools around Cebu.
Edralin said that some of the armchairs looked second hand even if it were delivered only last month. Some were delivered early this year and late last year, he said. Edralin said that when the issue of the anomalous supplies came out to the public on April, some of the schools tried to varnish and alter the desks and armchairs delivered to them by Gala. Edralin said that school funds were used to make the alterations.
Akbayan officials said they will file charges of perjury at the Visayas Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission against the five DepEd officials. They are also urging the Ombudsman to conduct lifestyle checks on the DepEd officials in Cebu. An administrative case reportedly will also be filed against the five education officials at the DepEd office.
Akbayan also said it is wondering why no Lower House representatives from Cebu have complained on the matter since the principals and the property custodians who approached them came to them first.
Meanwhile, Jacque Dela Peña from Bids and Awards Committee Observer (BACO) and Kaabag Sugbo said that before the bidding process, they sent several letters to Regional Director Recaredo Borgonia asking that they will be present during the bidding. She said that BACOs are usually present if any bidding process is conducted to government agencies. She said that during their interface conference conducted together with the different government agencies, only DepEd did not send any representatives.
Zenaida Amores of Bantay Banay said that if only BACOs were invited to the bidding none of the alleged anomalies could have occurred. She said that the items with the correct specifications should have been delivered if BACOs were also there to do the checking of the items. Amores said that BACOs were taught by the Visayas Ombudsman how to observe and what to observe during a bidding process and on delivering the products.
DepEd Central Visayas Director, Recaredo Borgonia said that the matter is subject for investigation and will be taken up by the Cebu Provincial Division.
The regional official said he is closely monitoring the implementation of the contracts. As of the moment, the regional office is verifying reports they have received regarding the sub-standard furniture. He said that they have sent inspection teams to various schools already and they are waiting for their reports to be submitted at his office.