Binay's Makati clams up on winning bidders
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate investigation into alleged anomalies and irregularities in Makati City Hall has made its officials less transparent with government contracts.
Data mined from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (Philgeps) showed that the Makati city government has clammed up in disclosing the winning bidders to its multi-million contracts – in sharp contrast to its practice before the Senate probe began.
Prior to the chamber’s hearings on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall parking building in August 2014, the city government had faithfully uploaded on Philgeps almost all of its multi-million peso contracts awarded to private bidders.
In fact, it was one of the local government units that was religiously posting updates for its projects, bids, contract amount, and the winning bidders.
The city goverment’s posts had helped Rappler dig up contracts repeatedly cornered by some favored private contractors, specifically Hilmarc’s Construction, which bagged all 5 phases of the controversial Makati City Hall parking building project. (READ: Red flags in ‘overpriced’ Makati infra projects)
It also helped trace and confirm multi-million projects that were consistently awarded to companies allegedly controlled by people close to Vice President Jejomar Binay, like Omni Security and General Services Inc which bagged billion-peso janitorial and security services from the city government. (READ: Binay’s ‘dear friend’ got P1.3B contracts in 4 years).
But the start of the political offensive against the Binays changed all that.
Philgeps acts as a portal where national government and local government units (LGU) are supposed to post their bid notices for contracts and services. The system updates interested bidders on government procurement, thus attracting more bidders and allowing for greater transparency.
Republic Act 9184, of the Government Procurement Reform Act, requires national government agencies and LGUs to post and update procurement activities on Philgeps.
Philgeps executive director Jose Tomas Syquia told Rappler that the performance-based bonus of national government agencies is tied to its compliance with Philgeps reporting.
Syquia said faithful reporting to Philgeps is indicative of the agency's or the LGU’s efforts to be more transparent with the use of taxpayers' money.
On the other side, “it could be a tool that empowers the public to monitor public expenditure” and thus exact greater accountability from public officials.
One weakness in the system, however, is that the posting of the latest notices and awards is highly dependent on the government agency or the LGU.
Based on its Philgeps reporting, the city government of Makati proves it is one of the richest, if not the richest, among LGUs in the country.
Month-on-month, from 2009 to 2013, Makati allocated hundreds of millions for projects; in some months, it exceeded the billion-peso mark.
Its single biggest contract amount was in October 2013, when P2.336 billion worth of projects were awarded to private contractors. Of this amount, P1.929 billion was cornered by Hilmarc’s Construction for the construction of the Emergency Hospital in Barangay Bel-Air Makati. Another P196.658 million was awarded to MPL Trading for Christmas giveaways.
Other billion-peso expenditures were recorded in December 2011 when P1.394 billion worth of projects were awarded, and in December 2010, when P1.246 billion worth of contracts were completed.
|Year||Total Contract Amount Awarded|
No longer compliant
The Makati city government still faithfully updated its Philgeps entries in the first half of 2014. In January and February 2014 for instance, the LGU reported awarding some P699.679 million in projects to different contractors.
In June 2014, it bid out a total of P81.252 million in project cost.
But the impending Senate probe had seemingly spooked Makati city hall officials.
In July 2014, when plunder charges were filed against the Vice President and his son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr in connection with the Makati city hall parking building, the city government uploaded only P885,000 worth of completed bids with Philgeps.
In August 2014, when the Senate began its probe, its Philgeps disclosure amounted to only P431,175.
In September 2014, the city government uploaded only a total of P518,000 worth of contracts awarded.
By October, November, and December, the Makati city government stopped reporting total amounts of contracts awarded to private companies. The contract amount for these months reflected in Philgeps amounted to zero, which does not necessarily mean that no projects or contracts were undertaken.
According to Philgeps, the zero figure could either indicate that the bid contract was “cancelled or failed” or that there is an “ongoing evaluation or ongoing post qualification” by the local bids and awards committee. Such deficiencies prevent the final posting of the total amount for all contracts, including the winning bidder.
|Month (2014)||Total Contract Amount Awarded|
Has the Makati city government slowed down on its spending? Has it been it more stringent in bidding out and awarding its projects? Has the local BAC become more careful with the conduct of the bids? Or is the dismal compliance of the Makati LGU the past few months a direct result of the Senate probe and the offensive against the Binays?
Or are they simply trying to hide something?
From January 7, 2015 to May 9, 2015, a total of 811 invitations to bid were uploaded by the city government in the Philgeps portal, indicating business as usual despite the recent power play, when the Ombudman sought to suspend the younger Binay as Makati mayor. (READ: 'Guilt strong' vs Junjun Binay – Ombudsman)
However, out of the 811 contracts, only 5 had been perfected, meaning, notices of award were given to the winning contractors. The 5 contracts involved food and hotel accommodations and were awarded through a negotiated procurement.
The rest of the projects were either still active (which means the bid notice is still ongoing), cancelled, or closed (which means the notice to participate in the bid had been terminated).
One immediate downside of this is that winning bidders for big-ticket projects could not be independently checked in the Philgeps website.
For instance, a contract for the supply and delivery of medicines and outsourcing of the pharmacy department of the Ospital ng Makati – with an approved budget of P310.833 million – was issued on January 14, 2015. While the invitation to bid was closed on February 5, 2015, the status of the contract remains incomplete as far as Phlgeps is concerned, since the Makati city government has not updated the project status 4 months later.
Another example is the contract for the Makati City Hall security services with an approved budget of P25 million. The invitation to bid was closed on February 24, 2015, yet the city government has not indicated who won the bid. In the past, security services were cornered by Omni Security. Binay’s close friend, Gerardo Limlingan, and his wife are behind Omni. Limlingan has denied being a dummy for the Vice President. (READ: Gerry Limlingan: 'I'm not Binay's henchman')
Someone has learned his lesson well. – Rappler.com