BUDGET Secretary Florencio Abad on Monday said he will look into details of Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) deliberations involving procurement of the 21 refurbished helicopters by the Department of National Defense (DND) which, The Manila Times sources alleged, violated certain provisions of the law.
Abad heads the GPPB, the highest policy-making body in government procurement as mandated by Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Executive Order (EO) 645, meanwhile, requires prior approval by the GPPB for negotiations as an alternative mode of acquisition for projects worth at least P500 million.
“Let me look into that and I’ll ask my staff to update,” Abad told The Manila Times when asked if the GPPB he heads gave the go-signal for the DND to proceed with negotiations with helicopter supplier Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and its partner, Eagle Copters Ltd.
DND insiders said officials may have violated RA 9184 and EO 645 when they insisted on acquiring the helicopters despite repeated warnings against it by the GPPB in 2012.
Originally, the Defense department sought to acquire the 21 helicopters through negotiated procurement under emergency cases through a letter signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to the procurement board in June 2012.
On September 28, Abad informed Gazmin that the GPPB had denied the request, also insisting that competitive bidding should be done.
Gazmin’s request ”requested approval to resort to negotiated procurement for the acquisition of the following major defense equipment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)” including the 21 helicopters, 10 attack helicopters through Defense Cooperation Agreement with the French government; and three naval helicopters through another DCA with the Italian government.
In the GPPB Review Committee (GRC) meeting held on August 1, 2012, DND’s request was heard and representatives from DND and AFP presented justifications supporting the use of the proposed negotiated procurement modalities but after “careful and judicious deliberations on the matter, the GRC found DND’s reasons and justifications insufficient to support the procurement of 21 UH-1 helicopters through emergency under Section 53.2 of the revised IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations].”
“The GRC recommended resort to the default mode, that is, competitive bidding, as the delivery period being considered can also be achieved if procurement is made through competitive bidding, bolstered by the fact that 15 out of the 21 UH-1H helicopters are already in inventory subject only to operationalization and upgrading; and that DND has identified several suppliers that are able to bid if the project is submitted for competitive bidding.”
On October 4, 2012, the Defense department filed its request for reconsideration through a memorandum, refuting the findings and recommendations of the GRC.
The documents identified as annexes, however, were not attached in the DND’s memorandum and that on October 16, 2012, the department refiled its request for reconsideration through a memorandum together with all annexes.
The GRC convened and held a meeting on October 24, 2012 to determine whether DND’s request for reconsideration merits further consideration by the GPPB but the body ruled that the Defense department did not present new arguments in support of its request for reconsideration for the procurement of 21 UH-1 helicopters.
“All the arguments raised in the request for reconsideration on the procurement of twenty one (21) UH-1 helicopters are mere rehash of DND’s previous arguments presented in support of its original request,” it reported.
A day later, on October 25, 2012, the procurement board carefully discussed, judiciously deliberated and took into consideration the recommendations submitted by the GRC and which it adopted and put into a resolution.
The resolution “affirms its original decision under Resolution 19-2012 to procure 21 units of UH-1 helicopters through competitive bidding, and consequently, denied the request for reconsideration to resort to negotiated procurement (emergency cases) under Section 53.2 of the Revised IRR of RA 9184 for the acquisition of the UH-1 helicopters.”
Unlike in the decision allowing negotiations for the acquisition of the attack helicopters through DCAs with France and Italy, the procurement board did not expressly authorize the Defense department to pursue the same for the 21 Hueys.
The GPPB never bought the idea presented by the DND that there was an emergency in procuring the helicopters.
In fact, the 2013 elections had passed and since the deal was sealed in December 2013, none of the helicopters delivered by RASI is even mission-capable up to now.
“You can draw your conclusions from there. Citing an emergency [at the time]was only an alibi, a cover-up, a scheme to hide the fact that RASI had been favored even before the project could be put in paper. An official of the DND who is close to Robert Rice (RASI president) knew that the American has UH-1Ds in his inventory, acquired from the German government years ago,” a source of The Manila Times said.