COA: Office of the Ombudsman broke procurement rules in 2014

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Audit (COA) said the Office of the Ombudsman violated procurement guidelines back in 2014 over unimplemented procurement totaling P183.9 million or 65% of its Annual Procurement Plan (APP) for that year.

In a value-for-money audit released last September 6, COA said the Ombudsman did not observe guidelines under the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, as well as Government Procurement Policy Board Circular Number 01-2009.

The law directs government agencies to be prudent in using government funds and requires them to ensure that only equipment and supplies crucial to carrying out their functions should be included in the procurement plan.

"Of the total APP of P280,832,533.94 for CY 2014, only P96,936,531.47 or 35 percent was undertaken... due to non-adherence to [existing rules]. In addition, the APPs were not within the approved budget," the audit report read.

Not meticulously planned

The state auditors also pointed out that the Ombudsman asked for funds exceeding P150 million to purchase items it had no immediate use for.

"The APP prepared by the OMB-CO was not reflective of the Office's entire procurement activity for one year due to the inclusion of excessive items in the APP that seemed not yet essential in the pursuit of its operations," COA said.

Based on the report, the biggest unimplemented sum was under the Ombudsman-Central Office with P151.33 million.

This was followed by the OMB-Office of the Special Prosecutor with P16.64 million, OMB-Luzon with P12.29 million, and OMB-Military and other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) with P3.63 million.

The items included "property, plant and equipment," with a budget of P134.23 million of which only P31.57 million was spent; "common supplies/materials" which had P16.33 million in allocations but only P5.11 million was utilized; and "building administration supplies" with P16.5 million of which only P0.58 million was used.

Other procurements included "repairs and maintenance of vehicles/spare parts" which had P12.41 million set aside but only P3.23 million was spent during the year.

The report cited that procurement implementation ranged from 0% to 1.89% for the Ombudsman-Central Office.

"With the huge amounts of unimplemented balances, the aforementioned APPs were therefore not meticulously and judiciously planned," COA added.

Ombudsman: 'No violation of procurement rules'

In response to the audit report, the Office of the Ombudsman said much of the unimplemented procurement was for the new office spaces for the Office of the Special Prosecutor which ended up being delayed.

In a letter to Rappler on Wednesday, October 5, the Ombudsman's public information office said, "The Office of the Ombudsman stresses that no procurement regulations were violated in the preparation of its 2014 APP."

It also cited the Ombudsman's explanation to COA that "improvements on the prevailing practice or procedures [in the APP planning and preparation] are being adopted in coherence with the laws and COA rules and regulations."

In its explanation to COA, the Ombudsman said a big component of the approved 2014 APP was for the procurement of equipment for the new office space for the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), which the Central Office is supposed to vacate upon the completion of the new building.

"The Annex Building was not completed within 2014, hence, for practical reasons, the procurement of the equipment had to be held in abeyance. Proper planning prompted the OSP Bids and Awards Committee to include the items in the APP, lest it be accused of inefficiency, or negligence for lack of foresight, in the event the target transfer date materialized at that time," the Ombudsman informed COA.

The Ombudsman also explained that "similar to the OSP, the OMB-Luzon notified COA that some items were included in the APP in anticipation of the Office's expansion and occupation of the whole third floor of the OMB main building"

"Due to the delay in the completion of the annex building, however, said transfer was deferred; thus, the procurement of items was likewise deferred because OMB-Luzon did not have enough space to accommodate all the procurements in the APP," it added. –