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Graft raps lodged vs DOTC, MRT execs

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ranking officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) are facing graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged involvement in supposed irregularities arising from the grant of a P3.8-billion train system maintenance contract to a private firm last month through emergency negotiated procurement.

The group Alliance for Consumerism and Transparency (ACTION) filed the complaint against DOTC Undersecretary for Planning Rene Limcaoco, head of the DOTC negotiation team; Undersecretary for Administration and Procurement Catherine Gonzales, vice-head of the negotiation team; and MRT officials led by general manager Roman Buenafe as a member of the negotiation team last week.

Also charged were the officers of the awarded joint venture group, the Busan Transportation Corp.-Edison Development and Construction Corp-Tramat Mercantile Inc.-TMI Corp.-Castan Corp.

ACTION said the charges stemmed from what they called the highly anomalous award of a P3.8-billion contract to maintain the MRT for three years and conduct a “general overhaul” of the rail line’s 43 trains and the total replacement of the line’s signaling system to the joint venture group last Dec. 23, 2015.

In an 18-page complaint, Vito Gaspar Silo, the group’s secretary-general, said the DOTC and MRT 3 had violated the government’s procurement law that mandates the conduct of public bidding when it awarded the contract through emergency negotiated procurement.

ACTION claimed the DOTC had added scopes of work in the emergency negotiated procurement, particularly the general overhaul of the 43 trains and the total replacement of the signaling system, when the two components were not included in two failed public biddings earlier conducted by the DOTC.

ACTION said the inclusion of the additional work necessitated the increase of the appropriated budget from P2,247,695,994.77 in the first failed bidding, to P2,389,635,994.99 in the second bidding.

And when the DOTC negotiation team started the negotiated procurement last Sept. 1, 2015, the budget has already ballooned to P4.25 billion.

“More importantly, the subject maintenance for the first two public biddings only covers maintenance service provider. Thus, to justify further the negotiated procurement and the increase of the approved budget, the Public Respondents included in the maintenance service provider, the general overhauling of 43 units of train and total replacement of signaling,” ACTION said.

“This is highly irregular considering that the maintenance of the signaling system has already been awarded to Bombardier, a highly regarded OEM (original equipment manufacturer). Therefore, the upgrading of signaling system should have been accomplished and to enter anew with another maintenance on the entire system is clearly not only anomalous resulting to the dissipation of government funds on the first phase of completed and systematic upgrading of signaling system undertaken by Bombardier, but also highly suspicious,” the group said.

ACTION said the DOTC had neither posted the negotiated procurement in their website, nor on the Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) and worse, had merely distributed the information and copies of the 447-page manual on the negotiations to their selected invitees.

ACIRC ADMINISTRATION AND PROCUREMENT CATHERINE GONZALES BUSAN TRANSPORTATION CORP CASTAN CORP CONSUMERISM AND TRANSPARENCY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS DOTC EDISON DEVELOPMENT AND CONSTRUCTION CORP-TRAMAT MERCANTILE INC GOVERNMENT ELECTRONIC PROCUREMENT SYSTEM PROCUREMENT SYSTEM
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