Right direction

HIDDEN AGENDA () - April 4, 2012 - 12:00am

The resolution of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dismissing the case against former Department of Education (DepEd) officials over the procurement of noodles as part of its feeding program to keep kids in school is a step towards the right direction.

The government should be now emboldened to continue the feeding program it started following the Ombudsman’s decision. It should be encouraged.

Those shouting foul and insinuating that its dismissal may have something to do with the fact that the main respondent in the case is former DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus who is a presidential relative, should first read the resolution of the Ombudsman.

In its resolution, the Ombudsman clearly threshed out and clarified the issues and they are contrary to what had been publicized in the news in the past several years.

First allegation. The biddings were rigged and favorably awarded to winning bidder Jeverps Manufacturing Corp. The Ombudsman found that the Bids and Awards Committee of DepEd conducted all the required processes in accordance with the procurement law.

Contrary to the complainant’s allegations, the Ombudsman said the biddings were posted and published in a newspaper of general circulation and on such account, several prospective bidders actually bought bid documents.

The required pre-bid conferences were done, according to the Ombudsman which means that all the requirements, terms, conditions and specifications stipulated in the bidding documents were made known, clarified and explained to all the prospective bidders. The Ombudsman also found that Jeverps won the two biddings because it was declared the “single calculated and responsive bids” for both procurement of noodles in 2007 and 2009 as the other bidders “either failed the eligibility check or voluntarily withdrew their bids.”

This means that only Jeverps passed the eligibility check and actually submitted responsive bids.

On the allegation that the requirements were tailored for Jeverps, the Ombudsman said such allegation was unsubstantiated. It said that contrary to allegations, it was the end-user Health and Nutrition Center of the DepEd that recommended to the BAC that the noodles be packed at 100 grams to save on packaging cost.

It also sided with the claim of DepEd officials that the phrase “with fresh eggs” instead of merely “eggs” was only to emphasize the actual use of eggs in the preparation of the noodle dough and not merely egg powder.

It also belied the claim that the noodles did not contain egg since a report submitted by the Bureau of Food and Drugs confirmed the presence of eggs in the noodles.

Second allegation. The noodles were overpriced at P18 per pack when the prevailing market price was only P4.50 per pack at that time. The Ombudsman said it could not support such contention because the complainants did not submit price quotes from other suppliers as comparative data.

“The allegation that the noodles were overpriced was also not substantiated….A Committee Review (of DepEd Usec Bacani) made on the procurement of fortified instant noodles with fresh eggs and malunggay found that the prices per pack of the bidding appears to be within reasonable levels,”  the Ombudsman said.

Third allegation. The DepEd did not conduct “check-ups” with those students who consumed the noodles. The Ombudsman said the DepEd conducted such check-up and made a nutritional status report.

The Ombudsman found that the respondents did not commit any fraudulent and dishonest acts or were actuated by evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence during the assailed procurement process

For failing to present substantial evidence in support of their allegations, the Ombudsman dismissed the complaints against the DepEd officials led by Lapus; Thelma Santos, assistant secretary for special concern; Teodosio Sangil, chairman of the BAC, Demetria Manuel and Nanette Mamoransing, members of the BAC; and Alex Billan, president of Jeverps.

Many times, a number of government projects are being stymied because of actions being perpetrated by losing bidders.

The moral lesson: useless suits should not be a hindrance in the implementation of the feeding program which is not only noble but necessary considering the growing number of hungry children. The procurement of vitamin fortified noodles is part of the government’s food-for-school program.

Feeding the kids while keeping them in school is the best method the government has implemented so far.

It is about time we all move on from this issue.

For comments, email at philstarhiddenagenda@yahoo.com

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