PCOO probes 5 employees over procurement irregularities

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2018 07:13 PM | Updated as of Jul 20 2018 09:07 PM

MANILA - Malacañang’s communication arm on Friday said it is investigating at least 5 employees tagged in the allegedly irregular procurement of goods and services used for the country's hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit (ASEAN) last year.

Presidential Communications Undersecretary Marvin Gatpayat said about 5 PCOO employees are under investigation over alleged irregularities in contracts the agency had entered into for the summit hosting.

“We will find out if indeed there were irregularities. If indeed there were violations, we will identify who these people are and will make sure that this will not happen anymore,” Gatpayat told reporters.

Gatpayat said the PCOO probe started around April after the agency received the Commission on Audit's (COA) audit observation memorandum.

“We are willing to file charges if indeed there is evidence to support it,” he said.

Gatpayat refused to name the employees being probed “to avoid trial by publicity.”

“The investigation will be made public. The COA has the option to have it investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman. But definitely, we will conduct our investigation and penalize people who violated any government laws,” he said.

Government auditors said in the 2017 audit report on the PCOO that the agency awarded contracts to suppliers without adhering to provisions of the Government Procurement Act.

“We recommended that management file the appropriate charges against any erring officials, as prescribed under Section 65.1 of the Revised Implementing Rules of Republic Act No. 9184, for taking action that favored a particular supplier/s,” the COA said. 

Among those flagged by government auditors on PCOO, currently headed by Secretary Martin Andanar, were contact costs for handmade soaps from three suppliers which were higher than the approved budget of P758,000.

Printing contracts and power bank supply contracts were also awarded to companies even if there were lower quotations, causing unnecessary expenditures of P2.071 million and P2.488 million, the report said.

Government auditors also questioned the rental of information technology (IT) equipment worth P4.039 million, as it found that buying said equipment could have saved the government P964,872.

Through inquiries with other suppliers, equipment such as Apple MacBooks, Dell laptops, Lenovo Yoga 300, Apple desktop computers, Sony cameras and lenses, and Canon cameras and lenses could have been bought for only P3.074 million.

“Management decided to rent/lease the IT equipment, hence the agency expended more, and ownership of the items was not retained, to the detriment of the government as a whole,” the COA said.

COA said the PCOO told government auditors that renting the equipment was their only option.

“Management commented that the PCOO was constrained by the budget, which was programmed by Congress and granted to the agency, to perform ASEAN 2017-related function. No budget was allotted for capital outlay. Without realignment, the PCOO cannot purchase any equipment, thus, was compelled to lease equipment to address specific IT-related requirements for ASEAN event,” the COA said.

Government auditors also flagged purchase orders and payments for various goods and services amounting to P27.503 million and P7.264 million van rentals also for the ASEAN Summit. 

According to the COA, the PCOO resorted to “splitting” to circumvent rules such as public bidding, which is required for purchases worth P1 million and above.

The contracts worth less than P1 million were for delicacy bags, handmade soaps, medical kits, dry-fit shirts, ASEAN jackets, media handbooks, wifi access, powerbanks and chargers, and VIP passenger van rentals for events in Metro Manila, Tagaytay and Clark, Pampanga.

“Resorting to splitting deprived the agency of the opportunity to take advantage of possible bulk discounts or lowest responsive offer if the procurements were done through public bidding,” the COA said. 

Gatpayat said the PCOO has already responded to COA over the matter.

“We explained to them the reasons behind the actions because they were saying that we did this splitting, that we favored some suppliers. So we answered it one by one, the concerned officials answered it and submitted their answers to the COA,” he said.