COA clears ex-Mayor Hagedorn on P44-million public bidding controversy

Published October 8, 2021, 2:38 PM

by Ben Rosario

The Commission on Audit (COA) has cleared former Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn of liability for allegedly violating 13 years ago the strict requirements of publication of projects up for public bidding in connection with two city government infrastructure contracts involving some P44 million.

Commission on Audit

In a recently-posted decision, the COA-Commission Proper ordered the lifting of two final notices of disallowance (NDs) in connection with the contracts for the Development of Relocation Site in Barangay Iwahig worth P13,969,566.68 and the concreting of Cabayugan-Sabang Road worth P40,401,702.22.

Also cleared from paying the total disallowed amount for one or both of the projects were former city accountant Nanette Dario; administrator Ruben Francisco; assistant city engineer Sergio Tapalla and former members of the Bids and Awards Committee, namely Armando Abrea, Vicente LIcerio and Alfredo Sy.

The petitions for appeal filed by Hagedorn and the former and incumbent city officials were upheld by the COA-CP after being convinced that the petitioners made substantial compliance to the provisions for publication required by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

The ND’s were issued in 2014 by the COA Fraud Audit and Investigation Office (FAIO) after finding out that RA 9184 was violated.

In conducting a special audit of the two projects, the FAIO pointed out that the project contracts were awarded by the city government to the winning bidders notwithstanding its failure to post in the Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) the Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid (IAEB) for the public bidding of the two projects.

Posting an IAEB in PhilGEPS is a mandatory requirement under the law to ensure greater transparency and fairness in government procurement activities.

In seeking a reconsideration of the ND, the appellants pointed out that there was no intention “to simulate the bidding process or defraud the government.”

Hagedorn and the other petitioners said the lapses were brought about by the fact that the city there was still no internet connection in the city when the biddings were conducted in 2008.

However, they stressed that that the IAEB had been published in a newspaper of general circulation and that it was posted in conspicuous places within the city.
 Composed of Chairman Michael Aguinaldo and Roland Pondoc, the COA-CP cited the principles of bidding which are offer to the public, opportunity for competition and basis for exact comparison of bids.

“To the mind of this Commission, the procurement for the project satisfied these three principles of public bidding by the very fact that the IAEB for the project passed through the above publication and advertisement,” the panel ruled.

But the COA-CP still ordered the referral of the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for “investigation for possible liability, administrative or criminal, and for filing of the appropriate charges, if warranted against the members of the BAC.”