The Department of Trade and Industry said Wednesday it is willing to help explain the alleged unused funds that the Philippine International Trading Corporation should spend for the construction of fire stations and the procurement of fire trucks.
Trade secretary Ramon Lopez says the PITC only buys or procures for the government any item, equipment or commodity on the order of the government offices and agencies.
“The transactions, or course, follow legitimate procedures. They undergo bidding and they always deliver on time, except on occasions when the fund is not yet available,” he said.
“In fact, in their audit report, there was no adverse opinion that will put them in the spotlight.”
Lopez said he spoke with PITC President Dave Almarinez on Tuesday and was told the agency was preparing a report for each item that was questioned.
“They want to show the status of each item included in the contract. So we can already verify the information released earlier by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto,” Lopez said.
Almarinez gave assurances that the procurement process for fire trucks was on track and the awards for the fire station project would be issued before the year ends.
“The BFP contracted the PITC precisely because we are known to exercise strict due diligence to ensure that the contractors and suppliers are above board and able to fully comply with the requirements and needs of the BFP,” he said.
Recto, in a statement, questioned the competence of PITC in handling the procurement of big items such as fire trucks, and even more the PITC’s supposed lack of expertise in dealing with the construction of fire stations.
Recto said PITC’s failures were detailed in the audited financials of the Bureau of Fire Protection for fiscal year 2019.
“This is unfair to the men and women of the fire bureau who respond to emergencies in minutes, yet have to wait for years for equipment they badly need,” Recto said.
He said the Commission on Audit had noted that the BFP had 170 unfinished fire stations as of the end of 2019, while some dated as far back as 2015.
Among the uncompleted buildings are 98 fire stations the PITC was under contract to build. In addition to the unfinished fire stations, the COA reported that PITC had yet to deliver to BFP two lots of equipment.
“Funding for the 87 came from Fire Code Fees in the amount of P787.5 million, plus the P104.8 million for 11 stations from the General Appropriations Act of 2017. This was all transferred to PITC,” Recto said.
“One is P997 million worth of fire trucks, aerial ladders and various equipment, and the other is a fleet of fire trucks with an allocation of P1.5 billion.”
Noting that these were official audit reports as of the end of 2019, Recto hoped “that these equipment and buildings have been delivered during the quarantine.”