Bukidnon officials, COA auditor face graft raps

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Local officials of San Fernando town in Bukidnon and a state auditor are in hot water over the alleged irregular purchase of heavy equipment worth P14 million.

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Facing charges for Falsification of Public Documents are Mayor Laurencia Edma, Municipal Treasurer Agapito Baldo, Municipal Accountant Felipa Catanus, Municipal Budget Officer Nestor Lopez, Private Secretary Menchie Landicho, and Commission on Audit (COA) State Auditor Carlito Matias.

Also included in the complaint is the proprietor of the Mindanao Philippines Sunday Journal, Bernardita Basay.

Basay was included in the charge because she allegedly falsely attested that the invitation to bid for the supply contract for heavy equipment was published in her newspaper.

Edma, Baldo, Catanus and Lopez also face separate graft charges.

The municipal government of San Fernando entered into a term loan deal in 2004 with the Development Bank of the Philippines for the acquisition of a new soil compactor and tractor.

Instead of public bidding, however, direct contracting was allegedly immediately resorted to with Monark Equipment Corp. as supplier.

Matias, meanwhile, reportedly attested upon audit that the local government unit conducted a public bidding and declared that the procurement was done pursuant to existing laws.

He also certified that the price offered by Monark in consideration for supplying the said equipment was reasonable.

However, COA subsequently issued a memorandum stating that no competitive bidding was conducted, noting that the officials involved in the purchase violated several provisions of the government procurement law.

The cited violations include the failure to publish the invitation to bid, failure of the auditor to certify the availability of funds, failure to record in the Book of Accounts the payment made to the supplier, failure to forward the contract to COA for review within the reglementary period, and paying the supplier in full before the actual delivery of the equipment.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, in issuing the resolution recommending the filing of charges against the cited officials, lamented the alleged absence of public bidding and the immediate resort to negotiated purchase.

The resolution of the Ombudsman described as “quite unsettling” Matias’ act of overlooking the municipality’s alleged non-compliance with the government procurement law.

It further said that his act “of defending the alleged unfamiliarity of the local officials of San Fernando on the provisions of RA No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) and his obvious disregard of the said law in the conduct of his special audit, only reinforces his participation on the scheme of projecting a non-existent public bidding.”

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