High court to quiz Sereno’s IT consultant

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The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered a probe into the alleged “irregular” appointment by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of an information technology (IT) consultant, who is supposedly paid P250,000 a month or P1.5-million for a six-month, renewable contract.

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Sereno’s hiring of an expensive consultant is part of the impeachment complaint against Sereno. Critics claim she betrayed public trust for entering into deals without public bidding and the approval of the full Supreme Court or en banc.

The high tribunal’s magistrates, during their en banc deliberations, ordered the Office of the Court Attorney to study the case of IT consultant Helen Perez-Macasaet.

The high court wanted to know the legality of Macasaet’s appointment, which was raised by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.

Documents obtained by The Manila Times showed that Macasaet earned about P9 million out six contracts of services awarded to her by Sereno’s office.

Each “Contract of Services” was for a period of six months, with the following start dates: October 1, 2013, May 23, 2014, December 10, 2014, June 23, 2015, November 23, 2015 and June 20, 2016.

Among the signatories to the contract were Eden T. Candelaria, deputy clerk of court and chief administrative officer, and Macasaet herself.

Macasaet’s principal office was at LG4-LG6 Cityland Pioneer on Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong City.

Her services were engaged “to review the status and implementation of its (Supreme Court) Enterprise Information Systems Plan (EISP) and related information communication technology (ICT) and computerization projects, and recommend updates of the EISP and related projects.”

The first six-month contract amounted to P600,000 and began on October 1, 2013, inclusive of all applicable taxes but exclusive of travel and accommodation expenses.

Contracts from May 23, 2014 up to June 20, 2016 increased Macasaet’s compensation to P1.5 million. She was also allowed to hire an assistant and charge to the court travel and accommodation expenses.

Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon’s impeachment complaint, which has cleared the House justice committee, cited lack of public bidding and approval of the court en banc.

Macasaet’s name was not mentioned in the complaint, but several “Contracts of Services” containing her name were obtained by The Manila Times from a ranking official of the high court.

“Respondent Sereno betrayed the public trust when she hired an Information Technology consultant with an excessive compensation without public bidding, in contravention of existing laws, Commission on Audit (COA) Rules, and public policy,” Gadon’s impeachment complaint said.

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