FORMER Rep. Monico Puentevella and two others are facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan over the purchase of P26-million computer packages that allegedly favored a private contractor for lack of public bidding.
The Office of the Ombudsman charged the former lone lawmaker and current mayor of Bacolod City for his participation in the purchase of P26-million information technology (IT) packages from Merryland Publishing Corp., owned by Jessie Garcia, another accused.
According to assistant special prosecutor Anna Isabel Aurellano, between 2002 and 2006 Puentevella endorsed the IT package to Victoriano Tirol Jr., former regional director of the Department of Education-Western Visayas and the third accused.
The IT package would be purchased from Garcia based on Puentevella’s recommendation, the charge sheet showed.
Investigators based their charge on a Commission on Audit report, which showed that in 2002 and between 2004 and 2006, Puentevella channeled his priority development assistance fund for the purchase of the P26-million equipment for Tirol’s office.
Each IT package had four components: educational software, instructional materials, hardware, and administrative, each worth P400,000.
Also, P2.4 million was spent in 2002 for six elementary schools; a total of P8.8 million in 2004 for 15 elementary and seven high schools; P3.2 million in 2005 for two elementary schools and six high schools; while P11.6 million in 2006 for 32 elementary schools and 16 secondary institutions.
An investigation committee of the Bacolod City Legal Office that investigated the purchases found that the IT packages were “overpriced, defective, and non-functional.
“Some of the school beneficiaries have not received the IT packages,” the 13-page Ombudsman resolution stated.
On top of that, records showed that there was no public bidding done for the purchase, which the respondents “do not dispute.”
The Ombudsman said that public bidding is a “policy of the government” to ensure that the lowest and most efficient purchase was achieved.
Direct contracting or single source procurement is only allowed if the contractor is an exclusive distributor.
In their defense, Garcia and Tirol said that Merryland is an exclusive distributor of the educational software component of the package from iT21 PTE Ltd. of Singapore.
However, “some contents of the [IT] package such as television sets and computers could be locally procured through bidding,” the resolution said.
It added that the hardware of the IT package is no longer covered by the exclusive distributorship between Merryland and iT21.
For his part, Puentevella said that the investigation committee was partial against him as he was not informed that he had been investigated.
In resolving the case, the Ombudsman said that the purchase of the multi-million package is “indicative of conspiracy.
“Puentevella’s endorsement of Merryland to Tirol and the latter’s expeditious award to Merryland of the contracts show a concurrence of motive among all respondents, indicative of conspiracy, to evade public bidding,” the resolution read.
Graft investigators added that Garcia knew that Merryland is only the exclusive distributor of the educational software component of the IT package, which should have warranted public bidding for the three more components.
“The government, therefore, suffered undue injury when it was deprived
of the opportunity to get the most advantageous offer through a competitive public bidding . . . and ended up purchasing overpriced IT packages,” the resolution ended.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the charge on October 2, 2013.
Bail was set at P30,000 for each accused.