Commission on Audit flags Cordova execs over bidding activities

·6 min read

THE Commission on Audit (COA) has called the attention of the previous administration of Cordova town, Cebu over its procurement activities in 2021, including conducting public bidding for infrastructure projects worth P23.5 million only participated in by and awarded to lone bidders.

State auditors also found that the previous Cordova administration led by then mayor Mary Therese "Teche" Sitoy-Cho procured a garbage truck and initiated 10 infrastructure projects in 2021 through public bidding worth P18.7 million without some supporting documents.

In its March 2022 management letter to the municipal government, COA questioned town officials led by Sitoy-Cho on why they allowed lone bidders to participate in the public bidding of at least 21 infrastructure projects totaling P23.5 million.

Based on COA's review of the disbursement vouchers and support documents, the 21 projects that were bid out from June 30 to August 31, 2021 were all participated in by only one bidder per proceeding.

According to COA, around five construction firms won as bidders for the 21 projects, with one firm having eight projects totaling P10.3 million.

Not illegal but...

State auditors found that while allowing only one bidder to participate and get awarded the contracts may happen sometimes, it prevents competitiveness as dictated by Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

"The Audit team wishes to emphasize that although having a sole bidder in procurement project may happen sometimes; however, when all of the procurement projects were participated by a sole bidder, it will certainly raise suspicion and cast doubt on the integrity of the bidding process," state auditors said.

"While we are not questioning the capacity and capability of the repeated bidders to successfully perform the projects they were rewarded to, however, it would give impression that they are favored by the Municipality, hence, in order to eliminate this, and as well as to avoid the impression of fixing the bidding process, there is a need to adopt additional measures to ensure that the spirit of competitiveness and equality which are the basic tenets of the Government Procurement Act will be attained," they added.

State auditors recommended that the municipal government direct the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) secretariat to strictly comply with RA 9184 by posting the Invitation to Bid (ITB) in conspicuous places and at the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).

They also urged the town to "come up with additional measures in advertising ITBs such as posting at the municipality's own social media accounts."

In a statement sent by her office to SunStar Cebu on July 12, 2022, Sitoy-Cho said that just before her term ended on June 30, she already called the attention of their BAC secretariat concerning the matter.

The town's BAC chairperson, in a formal letter to COA, explained that they had been posting ITBs in the PhilGEPS website and in conspicuous places and justified that the projects mentioned were awarded to different contractors.

The town's BAC chairperson also added that only lone bidders participated in their proceedings for the projects mentioned as these were done in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

No supporting documents

In the same report, state auditors also questioned town officials for procuring a garbage truck and initiating 10 infrastructure projects in 2021 through public bidding worth P18.7 million without some supporting documents.

In a review conducted on the town's transactions from June 30 to August 31 last year, state auditors found that there were no supporting documents for biddings conducted by the municipal government when it acquired a garbage truck worth P1.9 million and initiated around P16.7 million worth of infrastructure projects, including a P4.9 million expansion of the town's executive building.

State auditors found that the garbage truck and infrastructure projects were bidded out even as the BAC did not submit duly received invitations to at least three observers for all biddings mentioned even though it was required under RA 9184.

RA 9184's Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) state that aside from a COA representative, at least two observers, who shall not have the right to vote on bids, must sit as observers.

State auditors also found that plans/drawings for infrastructure projects and ITBs for the procurements mentioned, which should have been included in the bidding documents, were not submitted by the winning bidders.

Another supporting document that was not submitted was the certificate from the head of the BAC secretariat that the invitation to bid was posted at any conspicuous place and printout of the posting of the invitation to bid in the PhilGEPS website.

The municipal government also failed to submit the minutes of the pre-bid conference conducted on one road concreting project in Sitio Camolinas in Barangay Poblacion and for the garbage truck worth P1.997 million and P1.998 million, respectively, even though RA 9184's IRR states that a pre-bidding conference should be conducted for contracts with an approved budget of P1 million or more.

A pre-bidding conference, as stated in RA 9184, aims to clarify and to explain any of the requirements, terms, conditions, and specifications stipulated in the bidding documents.

The municipal government also failed to submit other documents such as the eligibility and technical documents and information for all procurements cited; minutes of the opening of bids and abstracts of bids for the garbage truck and three infrastructure projects; income and business tax returns of the winning bidders; BAC resolution recommending to the municipal mayor the award of the contract and/or notice of award for two projects, among others.

"Absence of these documents raised doubt if the required procedures in the conduct of public bidding were properly observed by the BAC. Non-submission of the above-mentioned documents may lead to the issuance of a Notice of Suspension and/or Disallowance," state auditors added.

They recommended to the municipal government, through the BAC and the municipal accountant, to submit the lacking documents or submit a written explanation on why the contracts for the projects mentioned were awarded and paid despite the incomplete documentation.

To submit lacking documents

In their reply to the COA's report, Sitoy-Cho and her team said the BAC chairperson had committed to submit the lacking documentary requirements.

"The BAC chairperson informed that all these documents were just on file as these are required during the bidding and the municipal mayor (Sitoy-Cho) will not sign the check and the disbursement vouchers without these supporting documents. These might have been pulled out when the disbursement vouchers were submitted to the Audit team," the municipal government said in its reply.

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