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Ex-Education chief Lapus cleared in noodle ‘scam’

/ 02:16 AM March 16, 2012

There was no noodle scam after all.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has dismissed graft and misconduct complaints against former Education Secretary Jesli Lapus and six others over the allegedly rigged bidding for allegedly overpriced fortified noodles in 2007 and 2009.

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Cleared along with Lapus were Alex Billan, president of noodle supplier Jeverps Manufacturing Corp.; Department of Education (DepEd) assistant secretary for special concerns Thelma Santos; and bid awards committee officers and members Teodosio Sangil, Macur Marohombsar, Demetria Manuel and Nanette Mamoransing.

The complaint was filed by Prudencio Quido Jr. and Myrna Gonzales, who alleged that the biddings conducted were questionable and that the fortified noodles for the DepEd’s feeding program were overpriced. There were also allegations that the noodles were not nutritious enough.

The DepEd had purchased 100-gram packs of fortified instant noodles with fresh eggs and fortified instant noodles with fresh eggs and malunggay from Jeverps.

In 2009, amid the controversy, Lapus canceled the procurement of P427 million worth of instant noodles.

In a statement Thursday, the Office of the Ombudsman said Morales found to be baseless the charge that the biddings were rigged to favor one bidder.

It said that in a joint resolution approved on March 6, Morales found that the bid invitations were posted and published in a newspaper of general circulation, and as a result, several bidders, including the complainant’s corporation, Kolonwel Trading, bought bid documents.

The bids and awards committee had duly conducted prebidding conferences to clarify the requirements, terms, conditions and specifications, she said. She added that Jeverps passed the eligibility check and its bids were declared the single calculated and responsive bids for the procurement of fortified noodles in 2007 and 2009.

The other bidders either failed the eligibility or voluntarily withdrew their bids, she added.

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She also noted that during the preprocurement conference, the DepEd’s Health and Nutrition Center was the one that recommended to the BAC that the noodles should be 100 grams per pack to save on packaging costs. The center also recommended that the phrase “with fresh eggs” instead of merely “eggs” be added to the product’s title to emphasize the use of fresh eggs and not egg powder in preparing the noodle dough.

According to Morales, the complainants failed to show that there was “a palpably fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do moral obliquity or conscious wrong doing for some perverse motive or ill-will” on the part of the respondents.

There was also no evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence shown on the part of the respondents with regard to the procurement process, she said.

Morales also said there was no evidence to hold the officials liable for misconduct and overpricing, especially since there was no proper price comparison conducted.

“In the absence of the actual canvass sheets and/or price quotations from identified suppliers as a valid basis for comparing the prices to the winning bidder, the respondents cannot be held liable for the alleged overpricing of the noodles,” she said.

She also noted that the review committee headed by then Undersecretary Ramon Bacani found that the price paid by the DepEd to the winning bidder was reasonable.

As to the certification from Uni-Vietnam Co. that the noodles did not contain fresh eggs, she said that this could not be considered conclusive since the company is not accredited by the government to conduct such an analysis.

A test report from the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration had also confirmed the quality and contents of the noodles, Morales said. With Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net

Originally posted at 03:25 pm | Thursday, March 15, 2012

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TAGS: Business, Department of Education, DepEd, Government Procurement, Graft and Corruption, Jesli Lapus, Judiciary, Noodle Scam, Office of the Ombudsman
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