THE Department of Transportation on Monday filed a graft case before the Office of the Ombudsman against its former chief, Joseph Emilio Abaya, for entering into an alleged anomalous contract for the Metro Railway Transit 3.
In a 29-page complaint, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Procurement Reinier Paul Yebra cited four components of the MRT-3 project in which anomalies were noted–maintenance of the MRT-3 systems, general overhauling of 43 units of light rail vehicles, total replacement of the signaling system and additional maintenance work.
Yebra said it was anomalous that while the Busan joint venture (Busan JV) was the one that won the bid, the company that did the actual maintenance work and collected payments was Busan Universal Rails Inc. (BURI), “a totally different entity.”
The notice of award was issued to Busan JV on Dec. 23, 2015, and on the same day, former assistant secretary for procurement and bids and awards committee chairperson Camille Alcaraz asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to facilitate the registration of a special purpose company consisting of the members of the Busan JV for the contract award of the project.
BURI was incorporated on Jan. 4, 2016.
“It shows that the respondents conspired and confederated with one another to enter into a contract that is grossly disadvantageous to the government,” Yebra said.
“At the end of the day, our concern goes to our commuters. We can hear and feel their pleas. That is why the DOTr, through the leadership of Secretary [Arthur] Tugade, will do everything to serve the public with the truth and justice that they deserve,” he added.
On Oct. 17, DOTr served a notice to terminate its contract with BURI due to poor performance, and failure to put in service and subsequently ensure the availability of the contractually obligated number of trains, to put in operation reliable and efficient trains, to implement a feasible procurement plan for spare parts and to procure and store the required volume of spare parts which affected its ability to effect immediate repairs on defective trains and other facilities of the MRT-3 system.
BURI was given seven calendar days to submit a reply and a verified position paper citing why the contract should not be terminated.
After that, the department will have 10 days to decide whether or not to terminate the contract, Yebra said.
Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, said it was high time the ax fell where it should.
She said the complaint filed against former Secretary Abaya and other officials over the P3.81-billion MRT maintenance contract rests on solid ground, and that the Senate investigation into the deal proved the award to BURI was anomalous.
“I thus expect that the Ombudsman will find probable cause and file the appropriate charges with the Sandiganbayan against the culprits soon. This should deliver a stern warning and reminder that public officials past and present will have to be made accountable for their misfeasance in office in due time,” she said.
Poe said the poor service rendered by BURI would not have happened had Abaya and his men exercised due diligence to ensure that the contractor was capable of handling such a huge responsibility.
She added that this was another opportunity for the Ombudsman to show its independence and resolve to fight corruption in all levels, regardless of political affiliations, past and present.
“The Ombudsman should also investigate those involved in the awarding of the contract if they were working at the behest of other personalities, as what we heard during the course of our Senate hearings,” she said.