Dumaguete councilors question billing statement of food supplier for frontliners
DUMAGUETE CITY — Several councilors here have questioned the billing statement of a food supplier that was awarded a P10 million contract to supply breakfast, lunch, and dinner to personnel manning COVID-19 checkpoints and other volunteers.
The councilors doubted the authenticity of the billing statement of Aladdin Restaurant & Cafe because it was handwritten on ordinary paper, prompting an investigation by the council’s committee on rules, ordinances & legal matters and good governance.
During the committee hearing, restaurant owner Patrick George said he agreed to supply meals for the frontliners after Councilor Edgar Lentorio, a meat supplier and lawyer, promised that he would be paid within 15 to 30 days.
George then rented Lentorio’s space behind his law office and set up the kitchen. George said Lentorio also supplied some meat products for Aladdin Restaurant, and the councilor also bought the food boxes to be used by the restaurant.
During the investigation, George denied that Lentorio was subcontracting his business, and said he had not given any money to any public official.
George demanded payment, saying that the other food supplier, Boy Kanin, had already received payment. It was owned by Raymund Mercado, which had a “contract” for about P7 million for food.
George and co-owner Dr. Rosana Remollo Habaña have sent a demand letter to enforce their right to collect payment from the city.
Officials of the City Social Welfare & Development Office have vouched for the receipt of the food packs, but the billing statement of Aladdin raised eyebrows at the City Council after they were shown supporting documents with handwritten delivery receipts on ordinary pieces of paper.
“A transaction worth P10 million, and not one official delivery receipt. Isn’t this questionable?” Councilor Joe Kenneth Arbas said.
It was later learned that Aladdin does not have a Mayor’s Permit.
City Legal Officer Manuel Arbon, who chairs the Bids and Awards Committee, said this purchase was considered an emergency purchase because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such, the transaction was initiated by the City Mayor’s Office.
“In a normal bidding, there are many requirements. In emergency procurement, this is streamlined, given the situation as nobody was able to prepare for this. There may have been processes that were not followed but the bottom line is that as far as the city is concerned, the questions are: Did the City need food? Yes. Was the food delivered? Yes,” he said.
While the rules of the Government Procurement Policy Board do not prohibit the City from awarding a contract to a second cousin of the Head of the Procuring Entity, it states that only businesses with pending renewals for Mayor’s Permits may be considered.
In the case of Aladdin, it was explained during the session that they had already applied for a Mayor’s Permit but that it was not immediately processed by some City Hall offices due to the pandemic.
“It may not be the fault of Aladdin that it does not have a business permit, or why he was given a P10 million contract, of all legitimate businesses in Dumaguete, but it is also a fault on our part because we know the law,” said Arbas.
The City Councilors also questioned the inspector of the Internal Audit Office, Faronito Ablong, on why he signed the inspection report when he admitted that he never saw any of the alleged deliveries.
Ablong said he didn’t know about the food for the frontliner but was only told by the Human Resource Office about some papers that needed to be signed.
“But I did not inspect the delivery of food to the frontliners. It was an emergency, and we also needed to have the documents signed so that the caterer could be paid,” he said.
Councilor Agustin “Tincho” Perdices noted that the inspection report was made on the same day the Purchase Order was also made.
Perdices also questioned the BAC’s lack of specifications in making the purchase order.
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