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Sunday, March 3, 2024

House panel stays P1.5-b bidding for 120 fire trucks

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The projected purchase of 120 brand new fire trucks worth P1.5 billion may have to wait a bit longer pending resolution of serious questions on the integrity of the bidding process being conducted by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, chairman of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety, recommended the suspension of the fire trucks procurement following revelation of an apparent irregularity involving the head of a technical working group of the BFP’s bids and awards committee.

It was disclosed during the committee hearing that BFP Supt. Jan Garry Lunas has been using a sports utility van (SUV) ostensibly bought from an employee of one of the bidding companies.

Fernandez’s committee held the hearing in response to House Resolution  724 filed by ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro calling for a congressional review of the alleged restrictive and questionable fire truck procurement bidding process of the BFP in line with its modernization program.

During the hearing, a video was shown indicating possible collusion involving Lunas and one of the bidders.

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Ronald Canete, the private investigator who took the video, testified that Lunas was personally using the SUV registered under the name of an employee of the private firm involved in the bidding.

Fernandez said Lunas confessed to buying the Toyota Fortuner registered to the said employee.

Asked by Fernandez if Lunas considered his purchase of the SUV as unethical and immoral, the latter replied that he sees nothing wrong with the transaction. 

He failed however, to provide details of the transaction such as the buying price.

As a result, Fernandez said that the House committee has asked to replace Lunas as head of BFP’s technical working group.

“So, the reason why we were asking for his removal is because their decision was being compromised since he (Lunas) was chairman of the bidding process,” he added.

BFP chief Louie Puracan said they will conduct a separate inquiry regarding the controversy involving Lunas.

Under Section 32 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, “members of the BAC, its staff and personnel, Secretariat and TWG, as well as observers, are prohibited from making or accepting any communication with any bidder regarding the evaluation of their bids until the issuance of the Notice of Award.”

“Ang aming request dun wag na muna nila ituloy [‘yung bidding]. Ayusin muna nila ‘yung process ng bidding nila ulit kasi nga, dahil nga tainted na iyon, compromised na iyong decision doon dahil chairman siya (Lunas), so they have to review it (Our request was to suspend the bidding. Iron out kinks in the bidding process because it was already tainted because Lunas is the chairman. They have to review it),” Fernandez said.

As per BFP’s bidding documents, the opening of bids for the procurement of 120 fire trucks was scheduled on December 4, December 11 and December 12.

Last November 23, the committee expressed concerns about the “certifications” section of BFP’s bidding documents since the provisions may be viewed as “trademarking” in order to exclude other potential bidders. Lawmakers also rebuked the idea of the BFP establishing service centers in every region since fire trucks are not “common items” that are used every day.

“Putting a provision in the TOR (terms of reference) and converging it into one product, one brand, mate-tailor fit the process, thereby disqualifying others. The mandate of the law is to open it up for everybody. That is the wisdom of the law,” Fernandez said.

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