Whistleblower to Ombud: Probe ex-city admin over controversial Cebu City garbage deal

·3 min read

A BUSINESSMAN and self-proclaimed anti-graft advocate has asked the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas to investigate Cebu City officials over alleged questionable transactions.

In a complaint he filed on August 31, 2022, Crisologo Saavedra requested the anti-graft office to investigate the findings made by the Commission on Audit (COA) and revealed in its 2021 annual report that flagged the alleged illegal purchases and transactions entered by some City Hall officials, including its controversial P383 million garbage deal with two private firms that were found to be "irregular."

The two private firms identified in the controversy are Docast Construction and JJ & J Construction and General Supply.

Saavedra identified the involved City Hall officials, including the late Mayor Edgardo Labella; then vice-mayor, now incumbent City Mayor Michael Rama; then City Administrator Floro Casas, who is the chairman and members of the Bids and Awards Committee; and the head of the City Hall who handled the garbage collection.

He named Casas as the main culprit of the said transactions since the latter was given authority by Labella to run City Hall in his absence.

“Please take note that all of these alleged illegal transaction according to the COA Annual Report were done during the incumbency of former and deceased Edgardo Labella and Atty. Floor Casas Jr. who was given all the power to run Cebu City because Mavor Labella was on sick leave and did not report to the office for almost the duration of his term,” said Saavedra.

COA called the city's attention after the two private firms started hauling garbage even before the city’s Bids and Awards Committee conducted the post-qualification stage.

State auditors were also able to uncover that the two companies’ primary business is not logistics or hauling services—they found out that the two firms’ main businesses involved construction and general supply.

“The above allegedly illegal transactions will not happen if the Cebu City officials concerned will be faithfully honest to their positions,” said Saavedra.

Probe on rice purchases

Saavedra urged the Ombudsman to probe the purchase of 38,478 sacks of rice from Markabi Distributors Philippines, which violated the bidding procedure and was deemed disadvantageous to the government as reported by the state auditors.

COA said the City spent P90 million on August 5, 2021, from an ineligible supplier who only acted as a middleman.

Another issue raised by Saavedra was the multi-million garbage collection deal that was also flagged by COA in their report.

State auditors flagged the deal for many reasons, one of which is that the two companies failed to meet the City’s requirements, and they were, therefore, ineligible to provide the service.

Reply

In a statement sent to SunStar Cebu Monday, September 5, Casas said that Saavedra’s accusations are already answered and the state auditors have already given the City Government an “unmodified opinion.”

“Lumang tugtugin na man nang issueha kay natubag na man na namo sa COA, nahatagan gani man ta ug unmodified opinion. As we have repeatedly said and shown, our procurements are always transparent and in accordance with law,” said Casas.

Casas, who served as city administrator during Labella’s term, added that he is doubtful to the motive and credibility of Saavedra in asking the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation.

“Our documents and other pieces of evidence are ready so we will answer those allegations in the proper forum,” Casas said.

On their website, COA said that an “unmodified opinion (also referred to as unqualified opinion) is issued when the auditor concludes that the financial statements are prepared, in all material respects, in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework.” (IRT)