Commission on Audit

COA clears 12 BuCor officials, 2 firms of liability over catering issue

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COA clears 12 BuCor officials, 2 firms of liability over catering issue

NBP. The New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila on December 4, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

In 2017, state auditors flagged the absence of public bidding on the BuCor's catering deal, but the COA now says the contract was eligible due to emergencies at the time

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) has withdrawn its disapproval of the P115.8-million contract that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) had awarded to two catering firms.

The 11-page decision cleared companies Aurora Felipe Sumulong Eatery and EDCT Food Services, as well as a dozen corrections officials, of any liability.

The officials are:

  • Former BuCor director general Benjamin De Los Santos
  • Administrative office chief Rey Ragas
  • Assessment rehabilitation program development chief Cynthia Andrada
  • Planning and management division chief Nora Corazon Padiernos
  • Head executive assistant Melencio Faustino
  • New Bilibid Prison (NBP) food service supervisor Lualhati Lopez
  • NBP nutritionist-dietician Marie Amjonette Battad
  • Bids and awards committee (BAC) vice chairman Roberto Rabo
  • Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) acting superintendent Elsa Alabado
  • BAC member Maria Cielo Monsalud
  • BAC member Marites Magtalas
  • Accounting section officer-in-charge Eduardo Virtado

BuCor hired the two firms to provide meals to persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) at the NBP and CIW, but state auditors slapped notices of disallowance against the prisons bureau in 2017 due to alleged violations of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The COA flagged the BuCor at the time for selecting contractors without undergoing public bidding, and said the caterers should have been declared ineligible for non-compliance with the threshold set for single largest completed contract (SLCC).

The COA en banc, however, ruled that the SLCC requirement no longer applied to the transaction because it was a negotiated procurement, which followed a failure of public bidding and numerous issues in the NBP, such as a diarrhea outbreak in the maximum security compound and water supply shortage in the medium security compound.

It pointed out that time constraints prevented the BuCor from conducting another round of public bidding, and doing so would hamper the delivery of meals to the prisoners.

“The failed biddings as well as the ineligibility of AFS Eatery and EDCT in the bidding process that transpired before the negotiated procurement are immaterial to the emergency contracts in this case,” the COA wrote. –

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