THE Cebu City Council has been looking into alleged violations of the private contractors, Docast/JJ and J Construction and General Supply, which won the P420-million contract to haul garbage in the city for 2021. Most of that money has been wiped out -- only P27 million left, as of the last week of July, five months before yearend. The Sanggunian worries that in the months ahead garbage might pile up uncollected, with public funds wasted, if not pilfered.
Acting Mayor Michael Rama had written two letters (June 28 and July 26) to joint venture partners Docast/JJ and J demanding explanation for failure to meet a host of requirements under a P420-million purchase order, including inability or refusal to supply the number of trucks required (only 13 out of 50) and to provide, among others, two standard transfer sites and a motor pool.
On top of the alleged P.O. violations, the Sanggunian has been pushing its inquiry into other possible serious offenses of the private contractors. At a special session Thursday, August 12, the councilors poked further into two particular "suspicious" areas.
TWO STICKY ISSUES. Those are:
 Whether Docast/JJ and J padded figures of garbage collected and hauled to the landfill in Binaliw, through a flawed system of checking and recording the trash delivered. Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival and Councilors Franklyn Ong and Eugenio Gabuya found incredible ("unbelievable") the increase of tonnage from an average of 360 tons daily in the first few months to 1,000 or more tons daily.
 Whether private contractors Docast/JJ and J collected money for garbage hauled by trucks and personnel of barangays and the city's Department of Public Services. If the private contractors also got paid for garbage collected and/or hauled to the transfer site or the landfill, that would be "tinonto" or foolishness, Minority Floorleader Nestor Archival earlier said at the July 23 budget hearing.
THE DOCUMENTS. The Sanggunian, on motion of Archival and Councilor Alvin Dizon, would like to examine records of collection and hauling from three sources: (a) Docast/JJ and J, the contractors: (b) ARN Central Waste Management Inc., which owns and runs the landfill; and (c) the city's own DPS.
A Sanggunian resolution toward Thursday session's end called for another special session with representatives from the three entities and the city treasurer attending.
Councilor Joel Garganera had written to ARN for its records of the hauling, which the landfill owner responded to by sending voluminous papers. In Thursday's session, Garganera said ARN would give a certified summary, as confirmed by ARN lawyer Elias L. Espinoza who briefly joined the virtual session.
Espinoza later told SunStar that ARN weighs per truck and records the volume of garbage brought into the landfill. It bills Docast/JJ and JJ on the basis of said records.
DPS chief Atty. John Jigo Dacua said they had turned over its documents to the executive department, on request of City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. Councilor Archival had asked Dacua to have a sample of the papers, which must be the claim for payment that DPS must approve.
JOMARA's 'BAHAW.' Dacua said the increase in tonnage of garbage was caused by the uncollected pile of garbage, which he said the 2020 contractor, Jomara Konstruct Inc., had left. At the July 23 Sanggunian budget hearing, Grace Luardo, garbage operations chief, also told the City Council that Jomara had seven months worth of backlog ("bahaw").
Councilor Gabuya told Dacua he didn't believe that but would check with Jomara and the records. How could Jomara have been fully paid with its work not completely done?
On billings, Dacua said his approval of claims for payment by Docast/JJ and J was based on receipts issued by ARN. He said a DPS representative checks the weighing. Garganera reminded Dacua of what the DPS chief earlier told the councilor: that DPS couldn't get inside ARN, which means DPS relies on the weighing record that ARN sends to Docast/JJ and J in its billing and the private contractors in turn use in their monetary claim with the City.
As to the weighing at the transfer station in Inayawan, Pardo, Dacua said the weighing equipment had been under repair, an excuse that Councilor Gabuya doubted as the City bought new equipment for it. Gabuya said that with a flawed system, they could raise the tonnage to any number they'd like.
'BALE TANAN SA DOCAST.' On the question of the private contractors being paid more than the volume of their work and profiting unjustly from city government resources, Dacua denied he had earlier admitted that the system allowed Docast/JJ and J to collect the money for all. Under that one contractor system, instead of cutting up contract among several contractors -- or "chop-chop," which public services committee chairman Councilor Edu Rama advocated -- one contractor theoretically handles the matter of payment.
Archival and Gabuya said the City Council secretariat record will belie the denial. No councilor pointed out that in the July 23 budget hearing, DPS's Luardo confirmed the arrangement. Under the P.O. terms, payment is "integrated," "bale tanan sa Docast," Luardo told the Sanggunian.
P100 MILLION MORE. In the past two sessions that tackled the garbage problem in the city, Sanggunian members wondered how the City could manage to collect the garbage for the rest of the year, with its P420 million P.O. for 2021 virtually exhausted. They wondered again last Thursday.
Maybe they should check P4.4 billion Supplemental Budget One, which the City Council approved last July 28, if it included the P100 million that DPS requested. DPS's Luardo defended it at the budget hearing. [Explainer: DPS asks for P100M on top of P402M to collect 2021 garbage]
If it's any comfort to the councilors, City Treasurer OIC told the Sanggunian before it adjourned that she had suspended, per the legislature's request, further payment to Docas/JJ and J.
But, as Councilor Dizon pointed out, the garbage problem requires "more than fixing" the contract and system of payment.