Outrageous hiring of blue guards

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


IF HE doesn’t watch out, Talisay City Mayor JVR de los Reyes could be in serious trouble with the law. He was elected because the people wanted change but so far, his administration has been remarkable only for its fumbles and missteps.

JVR is a decent person and there lies the tragedy. There is no mean bone in his body.

But his lack of experience in governance (I refuse to call it naivete in the name of Christian charity) and his refusal to heed well-meaning suggestions for him to hire competent advisers have resulted in him making bad decisions.

The most recent and most outrageous one was his hiring of security guards who belong to only one security agency as job order employees. State auditors are aghast and for good reason: the transaction trashes government procurement laws and regulations.

De los Reyes, according to a Sun.Star Cebu report yesterday, said that the guards were hired because the contract of the city’s previous security provider expired in July 2013 and there was an immediate need for new security guards at City Hall.

How strange that the guards, numbering a total of 91 and whom JVR hired under his so-called Adopt a Talisaynon program, are all identified with one security agency. And how stranger still that the agency, which the Commission on Audit identified as Black Pearl, was the one that collected, through a representative, the wages of the guards.

And why did, as the COA noted, the guards receive only P300 of their P430 daily wage? Who pocketed the difference?

But the arrangement is not disadvantageous to the city government, protests Talisay City Budget Officer Edgar Mabunay. If I were JVR, I would fire Mabunay immediately.

The fellow does not seem to understand that the issue is whether the city government can engage the services of a security agency without a bidding under the guise of a job order employment of its guards by the city. We’re talking of the government procurement law here, not the anti-graft and corrupt practices act although it is not a bad idea if they start brushing up on the latter.

Mabunay’s claim that a bidding was in fact held and won by Black Pearl in March, this year only serves to aggravate their position. Why did they not conduct such a bidding in 2013? If they did not have time to prepare, wouldn’t it have been the less suspicious practice to extend the services of the existing security contractor until a new one was properly chosen?

De los Reyes should listen more to his lawyers than to people like Mabunay. If the mayor had only asked them, the lawyers would have told the mayor that what you cannot directly do, you also can not, indirectly.

***

I have no doubt that Black Pearl is a legitimate business entity trying to do legitimate business with government, among others. It is probably therefore just coincidence that the agency was also involved in the controversial takeover of security services at the provincial government.

Unlike in Talisay, however, the Capitol did not employ Black Pearl guards as job order workers. But what they did was no less contentious: allowing the agency to start serving even if the contract had yet to be drawn because the post-qualification process still had to be completed.

The question now is whether the agency can be legally paid for services rendered even if it doesn’t have a valid written agreement with the Province. It’s a sticky issue especially in the light of the refusal of the Capitol to honor contracts entered into by then Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia without authority from the Provincial Board.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 12, 2014.

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