74% of Phl firefighters lack gear, says COA
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - At least 74 percent of the country’s 13,272 firefighters do not have complete firefighting gear, according to a report by the Commission on Audit (COA).

State auditors said 9,881 of the firefighters do not have fire gloves; 9,777 of them do not have their own fire trousers to protect their legs and 8,236 do not have boots for their feet.

Records also show that 7,454 of them do not have their own fire coats to protect their bodies when they have to really get close to the flames and 7,044 of them do not have fire helmets to protect their head from the heat and falling debris.

The COA, in a 2011 report released only recently, said the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has only 1,943 fire trucks, 208 of which are not owned by the agency but by local government units. 

Of the 1,735 fire trucks it actually owns, only 1,516 units are serviceable while 87 are not, 55 are undergoing repairs, and 77 declared as irreparable.

State auditors said the BFP is responsible for the prevention and suppression of destructive fires, enforcement of fire-related laws and providing emergency medical and rescue services to those in need. 

“As such, it should be well-equipped and provided with well-trained personnel to perform its mandated functions,” the audit team stressed, noting that since its creation the bureau has been short on firefighting equipment.

Bidding problems

For 2011, the COA report attributed the government’s failure to address the needs of firefighters for enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and fire trucks to problems in the bidding process despite the availability of funds.

State auditors said the bidding problems resulted in more than P297 million transferred to the Department of Budget and Management’s procurement service to prevent the funds from being reverted to the National Treasury.

The COA noted that a bidding was held for eight 1,500-gallon firetrucks, won by the joint venture of Kolonwel Trading and Hubei Jiangnan Special Automobiles Co. Ltd. However, the BFP’s officer-in-charge asked the Department of Interior and Local Government not to award the P47.9-million contract because the bids and awards committee failed to justify the need to purchase the firetrucks.

Also in 2011,  the DILG disapproved a P242.8-million bidding for 4,197 sets of personal protective equipment won by Kolonwel Trading and In Seung Apparel Co. Ltd. for various reasons, including complaints filed by losing bidders.

State auditors said they “recommended that management streamline its procurement process.” The BFP told the audit team they will look for solutions to “hasten every procurement activity and utilize the funds within the given validity period.”

AUDITORS BIDDING BUREAU OF FIRE PROTECTION DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FIRE KOLONWEL TRADING AND HUBEI JIANGNAN SPECIAL AUTOMOBILES CO KOLONWEL TRADING AND IN SEUNG APPAREL CO LTD NATIONAL TREASURY
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