Ex-LRTA chief: Cutting janitors legal
IT WAS squeaky clean.
This was how former Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Melquiades Robles described the maintenance contract awarded to a private consortium when he was the head of the state-owned elevated train system in 2009.
In a statement issued Monday, Robles questioned the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to indict him and 12 other LRTA officials for graft over the reduction in the number of janitors assigned to train stations covering LRT Line 1 from Monumento to Taft Avenue.
He said it was “suspicious” that the Ombudsman ordered the filing of the criminal cases against them despite the public clamor to hold the incumbent officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications liable for the glitches besetting the mass transport services.
Robles also questioned the antigraft body’s claim that the contract for the janitorial services amounted to P400 million, saying the agreement was only for P3 million a month.
He said he left the LRTA in August 2010, more than a year after the contract was awarded to the joint venture of CB&T Philippines Corp., PMP Inc. and Gradski Saobracaj GRAS.
Contrary to the Ombudsman’s claim, he said the reduction in the number of janitors was “legal” since it was “made after the LRTA determined that not all contracted janitorial personnel were needed for the work required.”
‘Allowed by law’
“The reduction is allowed by law as a deductive variation order, meaning payment of less than the contracted price. This even saved the government money and was ultimately beneficial to the riding public,” he said.
According to the former LRTA chief, Republic Act No. 9184, more known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, specifically state that “variation orders upwards or downwards” are allowed in government contracts.
“Since contracts with the government can no longer be changed once approved, such variations are reflected in the payment vouchers with the contractors, which are in the possession of the Ombudsman, in this case,” he said.
During their meeting on Jan. 6, 2009, Robles said the LRTA and the private contractor both agreed to decrease the number of janitors by 87, which saved the government almost P900,000 monthly.
Proof of propriety
“The proof of the propriety of this action, which was ratified by the entire LRTA board, is the renewal of the same janitorial contract with the same contractor, with the same conditions, since its approval in 2009 until this year,” he said.
Citing alleged anomalies in the implementation of the janitorial services agreement, the Ombudsman said only 209 janitors were deployed by the contractor to the different train stations of LRT Line 1 from Monumento to Taft Avenue.
It said the contract clearly stated that at least 793 janitors should be keeping the cleanliness of the train stations during the agreed period.
Apart from Robles, also recommended for indictment were former LRTA officials Federico Canar Jr., Dennis Francisco, Evelyn Macalino, Marilou Liscano, Elmo Stephen Triste, Eduardo Abiva, Nicholas Ombao, Roger Vaño, Maynard Tolosa and Juliet Labisto.
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