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‘Peña padded Makati offices’

Makati City’s chief legal officer has accused former mayor Romulo Peña Jr. of padding the number of city employees by more than 1,300 during his term, among them his relatives, acquaintances, and political allies.

Lawyer Michael Arthur Camiña said Peña’s administration did not open to public bidding about half a billion pesos in city contracts, and merely extended them.

“Contrary to the posturings of good governance, the Peña administration treated the city government as an employment agency for relatives and allies. As a result, the city payroll was bloated and it was at the expense of taxpayers,” Camiña said.

From July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, the Peña administration hired a total of 1,218 additional casual employees, 22 contractuals and 78 consultants, the lawyer said. 

Former Makati City Mayor Romulo Peña Jr.
Camiña said a personnel review and audit they conducted soon after Mayor Abigail Binay assumed office revealed most of the new employees had no clear function or responsibility, and had dubious qualifications.

“The hirings made by Peña were not based on merit, skill or necessity. These were hirings for political purposes,” he said. “Merit and competence apparently took a backseat to political connections and blood relations in the hiring, promotion and regularization of employees.”

Peña, who stepped down from office on June 30, 2016 following his defeat to Binay, has denied all allegations against him, including rumors he spent the taxpayers’ money unscrupulously during his stint.

He said during his 11-month administration, fiscal discipline was strictly observed by his “Bagong Makati leadership.” Citing a report from the budget office, Peña said the city government spent only P685 million of the total P4.83-billion budget allocated for the period January to June 2016.

The city legal office’s audit, however, also uncovered cases of double compensation, with the appointees receiving salaries and benefits from the Office of the Mayor and the barangays, Camiña said. Cases of “ghost employees” who collected salaries and benefits without ever reporting for work were also documented.

“For the first two months, we also reviewed and evaluated all programs and services and uncovered contracts amounting to a total of P568,873,353 that were simply extended by the previous administration, without benefit of bidding. This is contrary to their public posturings,” Camiña said.

Extending contracts was the Peña administration’s template for the Ospital ng Makati, which they found in dismal conditions last July, the lawyer said.

“We found our hospital—a recipient of an ISO certification—lacking in the most basic needs. There was a shortage in laboratory and medical supplies. Major diagnostic equipment and a non-functioning air-conditioning system were left unserviced,” he said.

Camiña assured the constituents of Makati that Binay’s administration has done away with the practice. “We have opened these services and programs to public bidding in compliance with procurement laws,” he said.

The extended contracts included the supply of medicines and other medical supplies, P33.3 million (2016) and P98.9 million (2015); security services for city hall buildings, public schools, health centers, police headquarters, fire station, parks, Makati Coliseum and other city-owned public facilities, P102.5 million (2016) and P125.6 million (2015); janitorial services for various facilities, P66.2 million (2016) and P92.7 million (2015); solid waste management services, P38.3 million (2016); and building maintenance services, P8.6 million (2016) and P2.8 million (2015).

Under the Government Procurement Reform Act or Republic Act 9184 and its implementing rules and regulations, the procurement of goods and services must strictly follow mandated procedures and requirements, including the holding of pre-procurement conference, advertisement or publication of invitation to bid, conduct of pre-bid conference, receipt and opening of bids, bid evaluation, post-qualification, and award of contract to the winning bidder.

Peña had said the amount spent during his term was just 14.17 percent of the total appropriations for the first half of the year. “The bulk of the unexpended budget is passed on to the incoming administration, which means that P4.15 billion or 85.83% of the allotment remained in the city’s coffers.”

“During our last six months, we have put in place the much-needed reforms intended to curb corruption and safeguard the city’s resources against abuse and misuse,” said Pena. “We had sustained the transparent bidding process to ensure that our constituents and all target beneficiaries receive the best quality of services we can afford.”

He also highlighted the remarkable increase in the revenue collection of the city from business and realty taxes, which he said was a clear indication of the confidence of the business sector during his time.

Topics: Romulo Peña Jr. , Michael Arthur Camiña
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