Editorial: Capitol’s revived deal

IN AN activity today, the Capitol will try to dispel the ghosts of questions raised over its attempt to buy P252.68 million worth of heavy equipment.

It has pursued this attempt for about a year now, but the governor declared a failure of bidding about four months ago, citing questions about the deal, especially during the campaign period. Today’s pre-bidding conference is the Provincial Government’s first step back.

No one will disagree that the Capitol needs heavy equipment for its road-building and maintenance work. But like any other government entity trying to buy heavy equipment, it will face at least three questions.

First, is purchasing these equipment, instead of renting, the smarter move for the Province? Second, what steps have Capitol officials taken to ensure that its terms will ensure the best value for its taxpayers’ pesos? Third, what kind of oversight will be in place, so that the best possible results are derived after the Capitol buys and begins to use these equipment?

It can turn, for some guidance, to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The equipment the Capitol wants to buy—including excavators, wheel loaders, graders, forklifts and trucks—have appeared on the DPWH’s shopping lists for years.

And yet, despite years and years of buying these equipment, the DPWH found it necessary to fine-tune its guidelines as recently as July 2015. It said that its Supply and Property Management (SPM) Office may ask for an inspection by specific divisions before it acquires some “highly technical” goods.

For example, any purchase of service vehicles and heavy equipment can be vetted by DPWH’s Equipment Management Division. Other divisions can be asked to inspect other upcoming purchases, such as of IT products or services; construction materials; and laboratory apparatus.

In other words, even the DPWH, with its vast experience of purchasing technical goods, acknowledges that it needs expert advice.

The most common cases filed against local officials after the purchase of heavy equipment are triggered by the absence of a competitive bidding or the presence of overpricing. To avoid these problems and to meet rising expectations for good roads and good governance, the Capitol will need all the help it can get. Its transparency in today’s activity is a step in the correct direction.
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