Bureau of Corrections

BuCor blames GCTA mess for delays in medicine delivery in 2019

Lian Buan

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An audit of BuCor also shows that Bilibid's division into 4 quadrants allowed an unqualified supplier to win a P200-million contract

The 2019 audit report of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) showed missteps in financing and procurement, affecting their collectibles and one that ultimately deprived convicts of much-needed medicines at least for that year.

“The Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs were deprived of the much needed medical care due to long procurement processing of drugs and medicines requirement of New Bilibid Prison Hospital (NBPH), Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) and Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC) for CY 2019,” the Commission on Audit (COA) said in its  recently released 2019 audit report of BuCor.

The BuCor blamed it on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) mess that started August 2019, and which turned the bureau upside down. BuCor told COA the delays were because of the suspension of officials, reshuffling of personnel, followed by ultimately the changing of leaderships.

Due priority and consideration to the projects of the BuCor on the delivery of medicines to PDLs were not realized due to ‘GCTA fiasco’ which turned-out as a national issue,” BuCor said as quoted in the COA report.

Auditors found that there were 7 drugs and medicines procurement projects worth P65.54 million which did not award contracts immediately, and incurred delays of 71 to 75 days. The 71-75 day delays were counted after the 3-month allowable period to award a contract after the bid was opened.

Notices to Proceed (NTPs) and Notices of Award (NOA) were finally issued on these 7 projects, but the record showed the drugs and medicines were delivered only in January 2020.

There were also 14 separate procurement projects worth P56.56 million where there were declared winning bidders, but there were no issued Notices to Proceed.

“The delayed procurement of drugs and medicines may strip the PDLs of their much needed drugs and medicines and may expose them to the risk of not being cured of their ailments and worst, may cause their death,” said COA.

In November 2019, the new BuCor under Gerald Bantag reported that Bilibid has reached a critical level where one prisoner was dying every day.

Rappler’s data also showed that 61 convicts died in Bilibid in October 2019, 55 in November 2019, and 53 in December 2019, which meant at least for these months, the deaths breached the average one person per day.

“BuCor shall comply with the procurement timelines as prescribed under RIRR of RA 9184, and award the project/s within minimum allowable time to ensure that the same be awarded within the 90-day maximum allowable time,” said BuCor as quoted by COA. (READ: Concern over deaths in Bilibid mounts in the face of the pandemic)

Unqualified contractor?

Auditors also flagged Bilibid’s division of the maximum security compound (MaxSeCom) into 4 quadrants, which allowed an unqualified contractor to win a P200-million food catering contract.

Auditors also said what happened was the prohibited splitting of contract.

The contract to provide meals to 18,700 convicts in the MaxSeCom was worth P200.28 million. According to BuCor, it was fired BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon who divided MaxSeCom into 4 quadrants in March 2019 – namely NBP North, South, East and West.

As such, 4 contracts were bidded out totaling P200.28 million.

The procurement law provides that a contractor bidding for a project must show a Single Largest Completed Contract or SLCC that is at least 50% of the contract cost. For MaxSeCom, to be a qualified contractor, one had to show an SLCC worth P100.13 million.

But because the contracts were split into 4, AFS Eatery showed SLCCs that were half of the contract cost per quadrant. Bidding for all 4 quadrants, AFS Eatery’s 4 SLCCs amounted to only P45.27 million.

COA said this was “not in accordance with Section of the 2016 Revised IRR of RA 9184,” or the rules on SLCCs.

AFS Eatery won all 4 contracts.

COA reiterated that the rules on SLCCs are there to ensure that bidders have the capacity to fulfil their obligations under the contract.

COA’s scrutiny of the records showed that AFS Eatery failed to pay all rental fees so that by December 31, 2019, it had incurred damages worth P500,800.

BuCor said it had already issued demand letters to AFS Eatery but maintained that “there was no splitting of contract in the case in question.”

Auditors disagreed and maintained that it was still a case of splitting of contracts because dividing MaxSeCom into 4 clusters did not increase the size of the facility nor result in an additional penal farm.

“Nevertheless, we believe that Section of the 2016 RIRR of RA 9184 requiring for SLCC of at least 50 percent of the ABC was circumvented by restructuring the MaxSeCom into four quadrants,” said the auditors.

Reacting to the report, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday, September 29, that he will “look into it.” 

“In a congested prison where the risk of getting sick is very high, medicine is next only to food in terms of essentiality. Any delay in its procurement and delivery should immediately be addressed,” Guevarra said. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.