"Is this incompetence or corruption?"
There’s a fire in the hole and it’s burning right through the statement of Fire Chief Leonard Bañago.
In the recent budget deliberation at the House of Representatives for the proposed 2020 budget of the Bureau of Fire Protection, lawmakers discovered the failure of the BFP to acquire additional firetrucks despite the availability of budget.
To date, BFP has 2,350 serviceable firetrucks including 469 units procured in 2014 through public bidding.
However, in its audit report, the Commission on Audit said the BFP should have at least 3,608 serviceable firetrucks ready for operation, meaning it needs at least 1,258 additional units.
In 2016, budget was allocated for the additional units with P1.9 billion outsourced to the Philippine International Trading Corporation and an additional P494.7 million coursed through the Department of Budget and Management—Procurement Service.
Up to now, however, no additional units have been acquired by the BFP.
During the budget deliberation, Bañago blamed their failure to acquire new units on the procurement process, particularly on the PITC. For his part, BFP Logistics Director Jerry Candido blamed both PITC and DBM-PS for the delay of the procurement of additional firetrucks, saying the BFP cannot interfere with the two agencies’ procurement process.
However, sources say PITC consulted the BFP on the awarding of contract for the supply for new firetrucks. The latter, however, did notapprove. According to the source, the BFP allegedly refused to give its go-signal to award the procurement of the firetrucks to a different bidder “who is not their favored bidder.”
According to the source, there were two contending parties for the supply of additional firetrucks in the bidding for additional units in 2018. Bidder A, a joint venture, reportedly submitted the second lowest bid. The BFP awarded an P840-million contract to Bidder A for the supply of 56 firetrucks.
Early this year, the BFP awarded another P840-million contract for 56 more firetrucks to this same bidder, despite its failure to deliver the first batch of firetrucks.
Why? According to the source, the winning bidder lacked capitalization, as its shell company only has an authorized capital stock of P100,000.
The other contractor, on the other hand, the source said, has the capital and in fact, has delivered 500 units to the BFP earlier. But it sill lost in the bidding as the source claims the BFP, under the Department of Interior and Local Government, kept changing the Terms of Reference for the bidding to disqualify other bidders to enable only Bidder A to win.
In fact, Bañago seemed rattled during the budget deliberation that he testified before the lawmakers they were just awaiting for the delivery of 132 firetrucks from the supply contract they had awarded to the winning bidder.
But how can the supplier deliver 132 units when the two supply contracts only account for 112 units? Maybe Bañago should better fine-tune his statement first before blurting them out.
This is tragic. Is this incompetence or corruption? Maybe this is one area which the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission must look into. Those responsible should be held liable.
As of press time, this columnist has tried reaching out to fire chief Bañago, albeit unsuccessfully. If he feels the need to make clarifications, this space is open, as well.