Thursday, December 6, 2012

Overpriced fertilizer, Ombudsman dismisses 3 Albay town officials

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales yesterday ordered the dismissal from government service of three officials of Polangui town in Albay for their involvement in the overpriced purchase of 1,315 bottles of fertilizer in 2004 amounting to P5 million. In a 12-page decision signed on Nov. 19, the Ombudsman said she found sufficient evidence to hold municipal accountant Ma. Jimalyn Sabater, municipal treasurer Anna Robrigado, and municipal agriculturist Renato Silo guilty of grave misconduct, dishonesty, and conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service. In the ruling, the Ombudsman held that elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule, are manifest in the respondents’ act of hastily resorting to direct contracting, specifying in the purchase request and purchase order the brand name “Young Magic Foliar Fertilizer,” and disregarding the required public bidding process which gave the fertilizer supplier, Madarca Trading, an opportunity to overcharge the government in the amount of P4,819,187.50. The Ombudsman said the respondents violated Section 3(e) and (g) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which also constitutes grave misconduct, an administrative offense. The Ombudsman said charges of dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service were based on the same acts for which the respondents were already found guilty of grave misconduct. The Ombudsman said the three municipal officials gave unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to Madarca Trading by not conducting the requisite public bidding and specifying the brand name “Young Magic Foliar Fertilizer” in the purchase request. Ombudsman probers said they found as misplaced the respondents’ arguments that “direct contracting is proper and appropriate because ‘Young Magic Foliar Fertilizer’ is sold by an exclusive dealer or manufacturer,” after finding that Madarca Trading is not an exclusive dealer or manufacturer of foliar fertilizer. The Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority was able to canvass the prices of foliar fertilizer in September 2004, showing that Madarca Trading is not an exclusive supplier of foliar liquid fertilizer. The respondents was found to have also caused undue injury to the government since the prevailing price of Young Magic Foliar Fertilizer in 2004 was only P125 per liter but the Polangui municipal government bought it at P3,800 per liter or a total overprice of P4,819,187.50 for the entire purchase. Aside from dismissal from the service, the retirement benefits, including accrued leave credits, of the three Polangui officials were forfeited and they could not be re-employed in the government. - By Michael Punongbayan