COA clears DepEd, Davao City officials of liability in P18M purchase of GMRC books

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    WHEN Davao City officials bought thousands of schoolbooks on Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) in 2013, they probably did not expect that it would take six years to prove that it was for a righteous cause.

    In a decision dated August 8, 2019, the Commission on Audit cleared all 10 city officials of liability over the P18 million procurement of textbooks on Edukasyong Pagpapahalaga (Values Education), which was earlier disallowed for alleged procedural lapses.

    The COA Commission Proper reversed the findings of the audit team and the decision of the COA-Region 11 dated September 8, 2015 that affirmed the disallowance on the purchase by Rex Book Store Inc. (RBSI) of 53,739 copies of Gabay 4, 5, and 6 books in Filipino for GMRC.

    Auditors issued the notice of disallowance on the ground that there was no proof that direct contracting was the only mode of procurement available; the supplier was not required to submit a price quotation; and the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) did not make a prior effort to determine if there were other dealers who could have delivered the item at a more advantageous price.

    They likewise questioned the lack of notices about the supply contract on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), the city website or in conspicuous places in Davao City.

    Originally held liable were Davao City BAC chairman Osmundo Villanueva; BAC members Cerelyn Pinili, Tristan Dwight Domingo, Roberto Alabado III, and Roland Reyes; BAC Secretariat head Gil Norman Ciudadano; secretariat member Dee Macapundag; acting city administrator Edwin Alparaque; Schools Division Superintendent Helen Paguican; and assistant City General Services Officer Carmelita Bangayan.

    The group filed a petition for review asserting that there was a meticulous survey of available suppliers before the direct contracting was approved.

    It likewise argued that direct contracting was the only mode of procurement possible since Rex Book Store owned the copyright and exclusive distributorship over the books purchased.

    At the same time, petitioners stressed that the cost per copy was complied with based on the ceiling set by the Department of Education.

    COA chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc ruled in favor of the petitioners and lifted the notice of disallowance.

    “(T)he books were copyrighted materials and RBSI was both the exclusive publisher and distributor as evidenced by the Certificates of Copyright Registration and Deposit issued by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the National Library, as well as the canvass sheets showing that other bookstores in Davao City do not offer the materials. Thus, the procurement of the books can only be made through RBSI,” the COA Commission Proper said.

    It also pointed out that the necessity of the procurement was properly established since it was the DepEd that made the request for the procurement using the city government’s Special Education Fund (SEF).

    At the same time, the COA called attention to the fact that the same books were the only titles acceptable because the medium of instruction for the said school subject was in Filipino.