Antipoverty body called out for ‘nonessential’ consultants
The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) has been called out for hiring pricey consultants last year, including those whom state auditors have deemed “unnecessary” and “not essential,” for a total of P8.21 million—way exceeding the agency’s budget of P300,000 for consultancy services.
The Commission on Audit (COA) also said the “unjustifiable” hiring of these consultants without public bidding ran counter to Republic Act No. 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act, and also did not comply with certain provisions in the law requiring that the procurement of all goods and services be registered under the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.
“The procurement of consulting services, either … an individual consultant or a consultancy firm, is covered by the provisions of RA 9184 and its Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations. As such, the hiring of said consultants without the benefit of public bidding is not justifiable,” the audit body said in its 2021 report on the NAPC.
“Likewise, the requirement that the procuring entity obtain the most advantageous price in hiring them was not assured,” the report added.
According to the COA, the total budget for consultancy services as stated in the NAPC’s Annual Procurement Plan was only P300,000, yet “total disbursements incurred for the year was P8,219,636.”
State auditors also found that the NAPC hired 13 consultants whose functions were already being performed by other employees or units in the commission.
The 13 additional hirees included six legal consultants, four media consultants, a financial consultant, an economic affairs consultant and another on “gender and development” and “indigenous peoples.”
Having a financial consultant was “not essential to the regular operations of the agency” since the Administrative and Finance Unit and the Internal Audit Unit are already performing the “same functions,” the COA said.
Moreover, the NAPC is “not into investing activities [such that it would] need the services of a financial consultant,” the report added.
The agency also has its own Media and Public Relations Unit, therefore the “functions of media consultants were dispensable.”
The media consultants’ tasks of video and photo documentation, organizing media coverage and press conferences, and writing articles about NAPC activities “could also be performed (by the media unit) and even other NAPC employees and staff,” the COA said.
The hiring of these “unnecessary” consultants cost the NAPC an additional P3.39 million.
“[These] expenditure[s] may have been avoided had the management properly analyzed [or] assessed whether [the] hiring of such consultants was really essential and advantageous to the mandate and operations of the agency,” the COA said.
The legal consultant, apart from lacking a “written conformity” from both the Office of the Solicitor General and the COA, also cost NAPC P73,299 in monthly fees—exceeding the P50,000 rate allowed by the audit body.
‘Trust and confidence’
The NAPC, in its response to COA, maintained that the hiring of the consultants was consistent with the provisions on negotiated procurement under RA 9184.
The commission also pointed out that it had “trust and confidence” in those consultants and that “their technical skills [were] needed in the agency.”
The NAPC agreed with the audit body’s recommendation to “stop the hiring of consultants with redundant functions.”
But it maintained that the 13 hired last year were “approved and recommended” by the commission’s Position Allocation List Evaluation Group.
It said “the gravity of the tasks and the lack of responsible officers” to oversee the implementation of Republic Act No. 11291, or the Magna Carta on the Poor, and to supervise a “special project” of the commission together with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. led to their hiring.
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