Nalzaro: Controversial Capitol biddings

WHY is it that biddings for purchases, services and procurement at the Capitol are controversial? Is it because the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) does not strictly follow the laws on procurement? Or it is because of “favoritism” or under-the-table deals? I pose this question because four biddings (as far as I can recall) conducted by the Provincial Government became controversial. In fact, two of these four biddings were declared failures.

The first one was the bidding for the security provider for the Capitol and its satellite offices. The BAC, which was then headed by Provincial Legal Officer Orvi Ortega, initially awarded the contract to Black Pearl Security Agency. Black Pearl hastily took over the security matters at the Capitol even if the contract had not been signed and the Provincial Board had yet to give an authority to Gov. Hilario Davide III to sign a contract with the security agency.

Modesty aside, I was the one who exposed the questionable bidding result, prompting the governor to declare failure of bidding and ordering a re-bidding. Ortega was forced to resign as BAC chairman. Sources said that P1,000 per security guard was given by the agency to some “entrepreneurial minds” at the Capitol. Ortega threatened to sue me for libel claiming my expose damage his reputation. But later on he backed off.

Then there was the bidding for the purchase of P250-million-worth of heavy equipment. The highest bidder, ConEquip, won the bidding. Where in the world can you find the highest bidder getting the contract? The BAC at that time was headed by Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino.

The alleged bidding anomaly was exposed when it was uncovered that ConEquip's sister company, The Mighty Brothers, offered a low price for a Howo dump track to a private businessman in Mandaue City. ConEquip offered the same unit and brand to Capitol but double the price offered by The Mighty Brothers to the said businessman.

The Provincial Board investigated the issue and found some discrepancies in the awarding of the contract. Davide declared failure of bidding. To avoid being accuse of raising campaign funds during the May 9 elections, the governor decided to move the rebidding after the elections. But until now nothing happened. Duna na ra ba kunoy naka-advance.

Then there were the purchases of hospital equipment and medicines for the various district hospitals in the province that led to the filing of a court case by the losing supplier, who questioned the bidding process and result.

Manila Base supplier, Endure Medical Inc. (EMI), asked the court to nullify Capitol's decision declaring the company as ineligible to join the bidding for the purchase of medical supplies and equipment for the province's district hospitals. Named respondents were members of the BAC, which is chaired by Tolentino.

During the opening of the bids last May 25, the BAC declared EMI's bid ineligible for failure to comply with the technical requirement. It lacked one form of bid security in addition to the bid securing declaration.

EMI filed a motion for reconsideration but BAC denied it. Had the company not been disqualified, it would have won the bidding as it offered the lowest price. Remember, ConEquip was earlier disqualified but its motion for reconsideration was accepted by BAC. EMI won in the bidding.

Now comes the consultancy firm for the construction of a 12-story building inside the Capitol compound. This despite its bad record and performance in its previous contracts with the Capitol, Talisay City and other private firm.

Capitol awarded the contract to AS Enriquez Engineering Consultancy with the contract price of P57 million. Davide defended the BAC's recommendation saying the firm was the “most responsive” among the bidders. Responsive? What about the background and track record? Wala na pud kaha ni hawshaw, Mr. Governor, sama sa ubang mga biddings? Nangutana lang ko.

(bobby@sunstar.com.ph)
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