Pasig saves P150M after Vico Sotto tightened public biddings

MANILA, Philippines – The Pasig City government saved P150 million in the first 5 months of the administration of Mayor Vico Sotto, who said it was the result of stricter and more transparent public biddings for service and supply contracts – an effort to cut corruption.

Calling it the “first fruit” of efforts to clean up the city government, Sotto made the announcement on his official Facebook page on Monday, December 17.

Puwedeng gawin dahil hindi naman ako tumatanggap ng kickback (It can be done because I don’t accept kickbacks),” Sotto said, explaining how he had ordered city hall to reduce the cost of all city government projects, or Approved Budget Contracts (ABC), by a minimum of 10%.

The city government under Sotto also tightened the public bidding process and opened it to third party observers. The city’s public information office even streams bidding sessions live on its Facebook page.

This resulted in greater competition among bidders, pushing to offer their goods or services at lower prices. Sotto said winning bids – the lowest offer without sacrificing quality – have gone up to 10% to 50% lower than the ABC.

Before, almost all winning bids fell within 1% of ABCs, which some auditors consider a red flag, Sotto said.

The mayor cited two examples. One is the improvement of the Kapasigan Barangay Hall, whose ABC was more than P7.3 million. The winning bid for the project was just over P5.5 million, saving the local government more than P1.8 million, or about 25% of the original allotted budget.

The other example was “various supplies” for the city’s Engineering Department, whose ABC was P571,680 but went for only P212,600. That’s P359,980 or 63% lower than the allotted budget.

Sotto first ordered a cleanup of the city government’s public bidding process in September. He vowed never to accept kickbacks – or grease money – which unscrupulous bidders lumped in with their proposals for corrupt officials to pocket when the projects with bloated costs were approved.

In late November, Sotto announced that every family in Pasig would receive the traditional “Pamaskong Handog” or Christmas present, goody bags containing food items for holiday parties.

It was the first time all Pasigueño families would receive one, after city hall realigned some P260 million in savings under Sotto’s leadership. The Pamaskong Handog used to be fodder for corruption, Sotto said, when supply was limited and local politicos used it to butter up voters.

Sotto has had to deal with naysayers who doubted his capacity to enforce the sweeping reforms he promised during his campaign, and bureaucrats who tried to cling to the old ways.

“Hindi madali ang ginagawa nating paglilinis, pero sulit ang hirap. Dahil sa dulo, ang ordinaryong mamamayan ang makikinabang. Mas maraming pondo para sa iba’t ibang serbisyo, lalo na sa serbisyong pangkalusugan,” Sotto said in his post on Monday.

(The clean-up we’re doing is not easy, but the effort is worth it. Because in the end, it’s ordinary citizens who benefit. More funds for different services, especially health services.) –

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.