NO wonder why erring contractors make a run for the people’s money without ever being caught. They are “protected” by the very law that is supposed to hold them liable for shortchanging the government.
According to Palace officials, there are infirmities in Republic Act (RA) 9184, the Government Procurement Act that, instead of preventing incidence of corruption in government projects, even embolden contractors to pull a fast one.
Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson first revealed that police investigators were having a hard time looking into the alleged overprice of bunkhouses in Super Typhoon Yolanda-stricken areas because of a specific provision in the Procurement Act that allows them to “rectify” or “repair” errors.
The law, he explained, gives contractors 60 to 90 days to “fix” any problem that would arise or be “discovered.”
“This was revealed to me by the CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group]. They told me, ‘sir, we have a problem because there is such a provision [in the law],” Lacson said in a briefing.
This “defect,” Lacson stressed, must be amended because it “encourages [contractors]using it as an alibi.” The questioned provision may be applied to other government construction projects, not in the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected regions.
Lacson expressed the view that this protective clause may have been shielding erring contractors for the longest time.
“If [the anomaly is]discovered, they will just say that they will repair,” the official pointed out. This no longer makes anyone liable for the mistake, whether it was done deliberately or not.
“For me, that provision should be amended because if the [under specification]was deliberate where a different material was used, why allow repairs?” Lacson stressed.
He said investigators may not be able to fully hold private contractors accountable for the substandard construction of the bunkhouses. He said they could not ascertain what specific criminal charges maybe slapped on those who erred.
“So, that is their scapegoat. ‘You cannot charge us because we have 90 days or 60 days to fix those we didn’t do right.’ We will propose to Congress to amend that particular provision,” said Lacson.
For his part, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they have already taken note of Lacson’s proposal, which maybe reviewed soon.
“This matter maybe reviewed by the Government Procurement Policy Board,” Coloma told The Manila Times in a text message.
Earlier this month, Lacson ordered an investigation into their findings that the bunkhouses being constructed in Leyte and Eastern Samar were overpriced, if not “substandard.”
On Monday, however, he said their pool of engineers brushed off overpricing as an issue but maintained that the temporary shelters were done below par.
Lacson said the contractors deliberately used “substandard materials” and committed “under specifications, even substituting of materials.”
“The DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways] specifications were not really followed. There is no question about it,” he bewailed.