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Ombudsman asked to probe DA execs for procurement anomalies.

A former director for administrative services in the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday sent a letter to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales asking her to investigate two agriculture officials for alleged procurement anomalies.

In a letter he personally delivered to the Ombudsman's office, Rudy Santos asked Morales to conduct an investigation on Assistant Secretary Ophelia Agawin and Undersecretary Antonio Fleta.

Santos went to the Ombudsman without a lawyer to deliver his letter.

Agawin and Fleta are the two agriculture officials alleged to be the contact of accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in the Department of Agriculture for her bogus foundations for livelihood and agricultural projects.

Napoles reportedly visited Agawin and Fleta occasionally at the DA in 2011 when the department tightened its accreditation of non-government organizations in light of various irregularities detected by the Commission on Audit (COA).

Agawin also served as treasurer and director of state-owned ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) from 2006 to 2010. The now defunct implementing agency ZREC served as a conduit between lawmakers and Napoles' spurious NGOs that received the solons' pork barrel funds for ghost projects and for kickbacks.

In his letter complaint, Santos said that as director for administrative services in the DA Central Office, he 'discovered questionable procurement transactions which I refused to approve for the simple reason that there was apparent collusion among bidders.'

Santos said from 2011 to 2012, the DA transacted with bidder Work Station Design Center (WSDC), which always won in the bidding against RE Modular System Furniture Provider and Marant Distributions Inc.

Santos said the losing bidders were obviously made to appear legitimate only to lose to WSDC, adding that the canvass proposals of RE Modular and Marant were written by one person since these carried the same content, format, and writing style.

He added that the signatures of the three suppliers were almost similar, bolstering his suspicion that the three bidders were colluding to make WSDC bag the contract.

Santos said he relayed his concern to Assistant Secretary Agawin who even scolded him for not approving the documents.

When he informed Undersecretary Fleta, the official also reprimanded Santos in a meeting with the bids and awards committee, Santos told the Ombudsman.

'He accused me of delaying the processing of the procurement documents. In fact, he defended the irregularities and even stated in his memo to me, 'So what if there is collusion?'' Santos wrote of Fleta.

He added that the 100 chairs delivered did not fit the technical specifications as aluminum chair with rattan and armrest. These were also purchased at P2,450 per chair even though the prevailing market price was at P900 to P1,150.

'Please note that such chair was more expensive than the specified chair in the purchase request and purchase order - a way to match the price the WSDC bid in its proposal in order to cover up the irregularities I was already complaining about at that time,' Santos said.

Santos also alleged that Fleta and Agawin allowed the 'splitting of contract' in the procurement for the services of WSDC for the refurbishment of their offices with two separate purchase orders but under one purchase request.

Santos also attached to the letter a COA report finding anomalies in the procurement with WSDC, including the submission by the losing bidders of excessive canvass proposals resulting in their disqualification to the undue benefit of WSDC.

Santos also decried harassment in the office since he opened the lid on the procurement anomalies. He said he had talked to outgoing Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala who ordered him to 'step aside.'

'Instead of commending me for doing the right thing, I was ordered to step aside, and later, concerted efforts were made to terminate me from my 18 years of government service without due process,' Santos said.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 27, 2016
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