‘REJECT THE CHICKS’: Four face raps in P3.4-M chicken deal

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ILOILO CITY Administrator Hernando Galvez said four City Hall personnel face charges over controversies in the P3.4-million chicken distribution project. (Ricky D. Alejo)

MORE THAN three months after alleged irregularities in Iloilo City’s P3.4-million chicken distribution project were exposed, the ad hoc committee that conducted a fact-finding probe on the deal finally has completed its report.

“The ad hoc committee completed its final deliberation and released its report addressed to City Legal Officer (CLO), who will then endorse the report to Mayor Jose Espinosa III,” said City Administrator Hernando Galvez in an interview Jan 4, 2017.

Four City Hall employees were recommended to face administrative charges for their role in the deal.

“Three were recommended to be charged with serious neglect of duty and one was recommended to be charged with simple neglect of duty,” said Galvez, who refused to name the four persons.

Galvez said the ad hoc committee also recommended to “direct GSO to issue a notice of rejection of all deliveries for failure to inspect, (which means) there is no basis to ascertain whether or not the deliveries complied with the minimum specifications of the contract and the Terms of Reference (TOR).”

The committee, which was created Oct 19, 2017, is comprised of CLO lawyers Milagros Hechanova as chairman, and Mark Piad and Faymore Gascon as members; CLO lawyers Jahn Ray Gonzaga and Love Faith Hayco and job hires Shayra Mar Chavez and Esther Grace Casidsid as secretariat members.

Their primary task was to determine the persons who could be held accountable for the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)-City Agriculture Office (CAO)’s Integrated Community Food Production Program: Livestock Component.

The committee based its investigation on reports of departments and persons involved in the project such as General Services Office (GSO) headed by Joren Sartorio, the CAO headed by Romulo Pangantihon, and the Internal Audit Services Office (IASO) headed by lawyer Mary Joan Montaño.

The IASO already finished its independent fact-finding probe which included testimonies of City Veterinarian Dr. Thomas Forteza and the beneficiaries. The audit office found out that the supplier, Foodwealth Agro-Vet Trading (Foodwealth), violated the terms of reference of the chicken dispersal project.

Earlier, supplier Gaspar Igona of Foodwealth maintained he did not breach his contract with the city, and warned that he will seek legal remedies if he will not be paid.

Igona’s capacity to comply with the contract was questioned after some beneficiaries complained that they received chicks instead of 300-gram chickens as specified in the project.

On Dec 14, 2017, the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Committee of the Whole recommended the suspension of Foodwealth from City Hall deals but left it to NAPC to further probe the alleged irregularities in the chicken dispersal project.

Per procurement procedures, BAC awards the contract to the supplier, which is obligated to meet the specifications set in the TOR.

In this case, each chicken must weigh 300 grams, the fowls are completely immunized and adhere to proper quarantine procedures during delivery and distribution, must be certified “healthy” by the City Veterinary Office at the distribution center prior to the awarding to the target recipients, and unhealthy or abnormal stocks will be automatically rejected.

The GSO, as property custodian, is tasked to inspect all the goods procured by the city and must reject goods that do not meet the specifications set in the contract.

Sartorio earlier said that the inspection report usually comes after the delivery period, which, for this contract, is set at 315 days, or May 2018.

The CAO, as the end-user, must ensure the goods meet the specs before it distributed the goods to the beneficiaries.

 

VIOLATIONS

In its report dated Oct. 2, 2017, the City Hall’s Internal Audit Services Office discovered the following violations committed by Foodwealth:

  • majority of the chickens distributed are below 300 grams;
  • the supplier delivered less than the required 2,500 chickens in the districts of Mandurriao, Molo, Lapaz, and Jaro;
  • the required 1 rooster and 4 hens per beneficiary was not strictly followed;
  • there were sick chickens distributed contrary to the “fully immunized” requirement as certified “healthy” by the City Veterinary Office;
  • proper quarantine procedures were not followed;
  • the City Veterinarian never issued the “healthy certificate”; and
  • recipients were not allowed to replace unhealthy or abnormal stocks.

The probe further confirmed that “proper inspection” before distribution was not followed, and the Purchase Order negates the TOR which requires distribution center per district as the place of delivery instead of General Services Office (GSO) located in the city hall.

The report also observed the following:

  • inappropriate area for breeding chickens;
  • some beneficiaries received two sets of five chickens;
  • most of the beneficiaries are not competent and knowledgeable in breeding chickens; and
  • for lack of space and finances, some beneficiaries opted to grow their chickens in provinces, or in their relative’s place to ensure proper care.

The report noted that the city veterinarian, Dr. Tomas Forteza, was not apprised of his office’s role on the project, except to “assist the monitoring team of City Agriculturist Office (CAO).”

The report also noted the change in the number of chickens to be distributed.

“Based on the Itemized Budget Schedule, 35,000 heads at P100 per head shall be purchased. But worthy of note is the superimposition of the price per head of P200 with the same budget. The change in the unit price, according to Mr. Pangantihon, was done by then NAPC representative Sandy Mecuando III,” the report said.

The audit office enumerated remedies the city government can take based on Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

These are forfeiture of performance bond if the supplier is found remiss in its obligations; civil liability in case of conviction; liquidated damages in case of breach of contract, and rescission of contract if the liquidated damages reached 10 percent of the contract price; forfeiture of Performance Security; and termination of the contract.

The report said the parties can use the Civil Code provision against hidden defects and remedies.

Since there is no final acceptance yet, and the supplier is still within the 315-day contracted Delivery Period, Montaño said reparations may still be done should the city government still want to proceed with the deal.

But this can be done if the supplier has complied with the terms of reference.



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