COA flags BI over P5.8 million food  catering for detained foreigners
In its 2019 annual audit report on the BI, the COA said the bureau employed the services of a private caterer despite lack of a valid contract and even if catering services were not included in the agency’s annual procurement plan for 2019.
STAR/File
COA flags BI over P5.8 million food catering for detained foreigners
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for spending P5.816 million last year for catering services for foreign nationals detained at the bureau’s holding facility at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

In its 2019 annual audit report on the BI, the COA said the bureau employed the services of a private caterer despite lack of a valid contract and even if catering services were not included in the agency’s annual procurement plan for 2019.

The COA also noted that payments made to the caterer were not supported with necessary documents, making it hard for its audit team to determine “whether the expenses are reasonable, advantageous to the government, and in accordance with existing procurement procedures, laws, rules and regulations.”

Based on the COA’s records, the BI incurred catering expenses of P5,816,460 from January to Dec. 31, 2019 for 244 detained foreign nationals.

It said an inquiry revealed that the services of private caterer was being employed by the BI by virtue of a 2010 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into by former BI commissioner Marcelino Libanan.

Under the MOA, the BI shall pay the caterer P60 a day per detainee. In exchange, the caterer is obliged to supply three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in accordance with the menu approved by the bureau.

“The (audit) team believed that this MOA was valid only for Calendar Year 2010 expenditure, and cannot be used as basis for payment of expenditures for succeeding years (2011-2019),” the COA said.

It stressed that “since the GAA (General Appropriations Act) is being enacted on a yearly basis, in effect, all contracts should be made on a yearly basis also, unless there was a multi-year obligational authority issued by Department of Budget and Management on the matter”.

The COA said a review of the BI’s Annual Procurement Plan or (APPs) for 2018 and 2019 showed that procurement of food catering services was not among its approved activities for those years.

It cited Section 7, Article 2 of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which states that “no government procurement shall be undertaken unless it is in accordance with the approved Annual Procurement Plan of the procuring entity.”

The COA said the BI also violated Section 85 of Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines which states that “no contract involving the expenditure of public funds shall be entered into unless there is an appropriation therefor”.

It added that the disbursement vouchers for the payments made to the caterer were only supported with a mere list of aliens detained at the BI facility.

In a reply incorporated in the audit report, the BI said the bidding process for a new caterer may take a long time. “Thus, it cannot immediately discontinue the services of the current caterer “as it is a matter of life and death situation for the survival of said foreigners,” it said.

“In this regard, we are asking for consideration not to disallow the payments for the current catering services until such time that a new winning bidder is awarded for the said services,” the BI said.

The bureau explained that it has already instructed its accounting section to submit to the audit team all the necessary documents to support the payments made in 2019.

“While we acknowledged the predicament of management, we believe that compliance to the existing rules and regulations governing procurement and disbursement of funds must be strictly observed,” the COA said in a rejoinder.

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