"Why has the COA failed to question these deals?"
While the whole nation is heavily focused on the Senate investigation regarding alleged overpriced procurement of health paraphernalia intended for the government’s COVID-19 response, a group of lawmakers at the House of Representatives has trained their guns over P430 million worth of grocery packs procured by the Quezon City government at allegedly almost double its actual price.
The four members of Congress have called for an inquiry into the alleged anomalous procurement by the Quezon City government of 350,000 grocery packs worth a total of P403 million that were later found to be overpriced by a whopping 44 percent, or by P179 million.
In House Resolution No. 2184, Anakalusugan Representative Michael Defensor and Quezon City Representatives Anthony Peter Crisologo, Precious Hipolito-Castelo and Allan Reyes urged the appropriate congressional committee to investigate the purchase of the overpriced grocery bundles meant as “ayuda” or relief goods for families reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The groceries were acquired at a price of P1,149.98 per pack. However, upon inspection of the items, these could have been easily bought off the shelf from any supermarket at a total cost of no more than P636 per pack,” the House members complained, adding that the groceries were manifestly overpriced by P513.98 per pack, or by 44 percent, which they described as simply outrageous.
The local government conveniently obtained the grocery packs via a negotiated contract with Thyme General Merchandise, a sole proprietorship business, rather than through an open and competitive public bidding involving direct suppliers, the lawmakers pointed out.
The procurement was made through Purchase Order No. 2012134, for P402,493,000.00 worth of groceries.
Had the groceries been bought straight from any supermarket at P636 per bundle, the solons say, the local government could have procured a total of 632,850 packs for the benefit of an equal number of families.
“The local government not only squandered P179 million in taxpayers’ money. It also deprived an additional 282,850 families the opportunity to receive their share of the relief goods,” they said.
In calling for the inquiry, the lawmakers invoked Section 4 of Republic Act 6713, which provides that: “Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public funds and revenues.”
This was aside from another alleged overpriced procurement of the Quezon City government involving face shields and disinfectant sprays.
About two weeks ago, Defensor called on the Quezon City Government to explain why it paid P27 million for 400,000 pieces of face shield or P67.50 each.
In a virtual press briefing, Defensor presented a copy of the Purchase Order with No. 2012367 for the face shields and for 32,000 bottles of disinfectant spray worth P695 each for a total of P22,240,000, signed by Quezon City Mayor Josefina “Joy” Belmonte.
The PO was awarded through a negotiated sale to a certain company, Strength Medical and Drug Supply, registered as a sole proprietorship, which Defensor says is rather odd as suppliers for requirements with such a big amount are usually registered corporations as sole proprietors tend to be short on the required capital.
It’s just strange the Commission on Audit failed to question these particular deals, when it had raised similar issues with several national government agencies including the Department of Health, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.