THE Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from service of eight former officials of the Cebu Provincial Government and a Capitol lawyer for their involvement in the allegedly overpriced construction of the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the decision of Dennis Mendoza, graft investigation and prosecution officer, who said that the officials disregarded several bidding requirements in the construction.
Since the respondents are no longer working in government, the ombudsman said the alternative penalty will be imposed: one year’s salary, payable to the anti-graft office, which may be deducted from their retirement benefits, leave credits and other receivables.
Former Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia was spared from any administrative liability because she was reelected in 2007 and 2010.
Under the Aguinaldo doctrine, a public official’s reelection extinguishes his or her administrative liability for acts committed during a prior term.
“The disregard of well-established rules and definite rules of action would have subjected Garcia to administrative penalty had it not been for the fact that she was reelected twice, in 2007 and then in 2010, to the same post as governor,” wrote Mendoza.
Congresswoman Garcia (Cebu Province, third district), in whose first term as governor the CICC was built in 2006, declined to comment on the ombudsman’s decision.
In a press statement, her camp said it would be “best that we don’t issue any statement.”
Ordered dismissed from service were former provincial administrator Eduardo Habin, former provincial general service officer Bernard Calderon, former provincial health officer Cristina Giango, former provincial planning and development officer Adolfo Quiroga, former provincial agriculturist Necias Vicoy Jr., former provincial treasurer Roy Salubre, former budget Officer Emmy Gingoyon, former assistant provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre, and provincial legal officer Marino Martinquilla.
Habin served as bids and awards committee (BAC) chair, while Martinquilla served as BAC vice chair; the rest of the respondents served as BAC members.
They were found liable for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty. The anti-graft office also barred them from working again in government and forfeited their retirement benefits.
In a separate interview, Calderon said he will consult his lawyer about the decision and file a motion for reconsideration.
Calderon headed the Provincial General Services Office (PGSO) during Garcia’s administration. While Calderon and his lawyer work on their legal remedies, he will stay in his position in the Capitol.
Former provincial environment and natural resources officer Glenn Baricuatro was also spared from the administrative penalty since he resigned from the Provincial Government before the complaint was filed in December 2012. The ombudsman said it no longer had jurisdiction over Baricuatro in the administrative aspect.
In the 22-page decision, graft investigator Mendoza said that Garcia gave the go-signal for the additional work done on the CICC without a covering appropriation and bidding. He said that the move violated Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The ombudsman pointed out that the BAC recommended to Garcia alternative methods of procurement for various phases of the CICC.
But graft investigator Mendoza said the “limited source” bidding for structural steel did not meet conditions set under the law, so its use was “inappropriate and irregular.”
Also, the use of “limited source” bidding for the steel fences and other goods that were not of a highly specialized character was “unwarranted.”
“But the BAC recommended it to Garcia over and over again,” Mendoza said.
The graft investigator said that the BAC also violated the Procurement Law in the supply and installation of air-conditioning units.
Pursuant to the Government Procurement Reform Act, Mendoza said, all procurements should be done through competitive bidding.
An alternative method of procurement is justified only in “highly exceptional cases and when there is prior approval of the head of the procuring entity.”
“Structural steel does not qualify as a highly specialized type of good or a major component of a plant,” he said. But the most apparent violation, Mendoza said, was the “oral contract” for services and work that were done without an approved appropriation and bidding.
WT Construction Inc. supplied and installed the structural steel components of the CICC, and also handled the site development and architectural, structural, plumbing and electrical works.
In 2006, WT Construction filed a civil case against the Capitol for its refusal to pay for work done in Phase 2 of the CICC in 2006.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Provincial Government owed WT Construction about P257.4 million, bringing the total cost of the CICC to about P836 million.