Siaton officials yet to serve suspension

Siaton officials yet to serve suspension
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A SUSPENSION order against a municipal mayor and six other town officials in Siaton, Negros Oriental, has remained unimplemented for eight months since its issuance in September 2023.

The Office of the Ombudsman holds Siaton Mayor Cezzane Fritz Diaz and six others administratively liable for simple neglect of duty and consequently suspending them for three months.

The other officials subject to suspension are municipal budget officer Dario Arbolado, municipal engineer Alma Ragay, budget officer Roger Ian Gadingan, administrative officer Regie Rapada, social welfare officer Panfila Elumir ioand operations officer Myrna Cimafranca.

They were found administratively liable for simple neglect of duty, resulting in a three-month suspension.

The suspension order stemmed from an administrative complaint filed by a private individual in 2019 citing gross neglect of duty based on irregularities in the public bidding for the design and construction of a two-storey multi-purpose building.

Siaton Vice Mayor Vincent Emil “Bingbing” Arbolado, in a phone interview on Thursday, May 16, 2024, confirmed with SunStar Cebu that the suspension order has yet to be enforced, saying he remains vice mayor and not acting mayor as of May 16.

Arbolado, however, said he had no information as to why the suspended officials had not yet served their suspension order.

Arbolado, by the rule of succession, is mandated to assume the role of acting municipal mayor until the suspension order is completed.

SunStar Cebu tried to reach out to the camp of Negros Oriental Manuel “Chaco” Sagarbarria to comment on the implementation of the suspension but had yet to reply as of this writing.

The Ombudsman had ordered the Office of the Governor of Negros Oriental and the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government to oversee the implementation of the suspension order.

Complaint

Nicolas Gadiane filed a complaint against Diaz, head of Procuring Entity (HoPe), and six other officials who were members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

This was after Diaz and BAC members awarded the contract to Molrow Construction and Supply (Molrow) for the design and construction of a two-story multi-purpose building, despite the contractor’s ineligibility.

The Molrow, at the time of the bidding on Feb. 11, 2019, only possessed a “Medium A” classification from the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) instead of the required “Medium B,” which would have allowed the contractor under the Allowable Range of Contract Cost (ARCC), to bid and work on projects up to P300 million.

Gadiane claimed that the officials acted with evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence.Response

The respondents clarified that they informed Molrow through its representative Romelo Lamban, about their disqualification. Lamban then moved for reconsideration, as at that time, Molrow was requesting an upgrade of their PCAB license to Category “A” and ARCC size range to “Medium B.”

Based on the complaint, Molrow’s request for an upgrade was confirmed by the former Department of Trade Industry 7 director Ceferino Rubio.

The respondents referred Molrow’s reconsideration request to a BAC-Technical Working Group for review. The group recommended to HoPe and BAC members to approve the request, considering that Malrow was in the process of upgrading its qualification and that delayed approval would lead to project delays.

The respondents also maintained that there were only two bidders for the project, saying that the other bidder was “ineligible in many respects.”

No further clarificatory hearing was made on the complaint, adding that it was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Decision

The Ombudsman concluded that the respondents had “substantially complied” with government procurement laws; however, their evaluation of Molrow’s eligibility based on PCAB license requirements fell short of standards.

As a result, the Ombudsman found all respondents administratively liable for simple neglect of duty and not gross neglect of duty and ordered their three-month suspension without pay and a stern warning.

If the respondents are no longer in service, a fine equivalent to three months’ salary shall be collected from each, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman. The amount may be deducted from their retirement benefits, leave credits, or any receivables from their former office. / EHP

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