Duterte to COA: Lowest bidder won’t get gov’t contracts

Pia Ranada
President Rodrigo Duterte says he has told state auditors that he would not follow the rule on awarding contracts to the lowest bidder – which is mandated by law – as it is 'the source of corruption' in government procurement

DUTERTE'S DECLARATIONS. President Duterte speaks to soldiers at AFP Medical Center on August 2, 2016. Photo by Robinson Niñal/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he has given notice to the Commission on Audit (COA) that under his watch, government contracts would not go to the lowest bidding contractor.

His reason? This particular rule – which is mandated under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003 – allegedly breeds corruption, the President said. (READ: TIMELINE: Anti-corruption initiatives in the Philippines)

Ipinaalam ko na sa COA, sabi ko, hindi ako susunod diyan. Mag-aaway tayo diyan kasi ‘yung lowest bid is the source of corruption,” said Duterte on Tuesday, August 2, while speaking at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center.

(I already gave notice to the COA, I said, I will not follow that. We will just fight over it because the lowest bid [rule] is the source of corruption.)

His tirade against the rule began when he told soldiers he wanted to get good quality equipment for them. The President argued that while the rule allows the government to pay a low price for projects or equipment, this often comes at the cost of quality.

Pahabulan ng presyo. Sige, bababaan mo ‘yung presyo mo. ’Yung iba, nagpapabili ng 100, ipabili ito ng 20, eh ‘di yung bilhin mo sa akin ‘yung made in – alam mo na. Huwag muna ngayon kasi may alitan,” he said, seeming to refer to products made in China that tend to be of low quality.

(It’s a race for the lowest price. Okay, lower your price. The others are buying for 100, they will buy only worth 20, so what you buy for me is – you know. Let’s not get into it first because of the dispute.)

Duterte said he only wants “state-of-the-art” guns, transportation, and other equipment for police and military.

Davao experience

But with the lowest bid policy, the government tends to purchase cheap equipment that easily get damaged and end up unused, he said.

Tapos sabihin ng sundalo, “Sir, nasira kaagad.” Kagaya ‘nung mga jeep ng pulis. Tingnan mo ‘yung binili nila – wala na (Then the soldiers will say, ‘Sir, it got broken right away.’ Like the jeeps of the police. They bought it and now, they don’t use it),” he said. 

He compared it to vehicles he supposedly bought for the Davao City police.

Ako, ang pulis ko doon, Isuzu and it would last for about 3 to 5 years, huwag lang ibunggo ng buang (In my case, for my police, I bought Isuzu [vehicles] and it would last for about 3 to 5 years, as long as an idiot does not crash it),” he said.

Duterte vowed to make sure the bidding processes for government projects will not be abused by corrupt government officials and companies. He will personally look into the bidding process, he said. 

Ang pera na ‘yan gagamitin talaga sa tamang paraan. Wala ‘yang rigging-rigging of bids kasi lahat ng bibilhin ngayon sa gobyerno, tinitingnan ko,” he said. 

(The money will be used in the right way. No more rigging of bids because all purchases of the government, I will look into.)

The Government Procurement Reform Act is supposed to ensure greater transparency in the government’s procurement process to plug loopholes for corruption.

It mandates that all government procurement be done through competitive bidding, with government contracts awarded to the qualified lowest bidder, except when seen as not favorable to the government. In such cases, the law allows other modes of procurement.

RA 9184 also created the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), an online portal, which is the primary source of information on all government procurement. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.