No raps, only ‘reorientation’ for NIA officials behind P30-M fertilizer program

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/25 October) – Irregularities were found in the implementation of the National Irrigation Agriculture’s fertilizer subsidy program in Northern Mindanao, but Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was satisfied with the recommendations to withdraw and replace the substandard organic fertilizers released to farmers and reorient the officials behind the questionable P30-million project on bidding procedures.

In her letter to Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata on October 18, Lealyn A. Ramos, Department of Agriculture-X regional executive director said the recommendations came from the investigation team formed by her office.

Rice farmers in this city were among the recipients of the organic fertilizers distributed by NIA-10 in 2009. At least 1,000 farmers in Northern Mindanao, mostly in Bukidnon received the fertilizer procured with funds from the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) – Rice Program.

Ramos said the reorientation means keeping all members of NIA-10’s bids and awards committee abreast with the latest updates of the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184).

She said Alcala’s decision was prompted by Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution no. 425-2011 passed on August 1 urging the secretary to “take the appropriate actions based on the said recommendations.”

Alcala’s decision drew the ire of City Councilor Glenn Peduche, who was among the first to expose the alleged irregularities of the project, including lapses in bidding and the reportedly substandard quality of the fertilizer.

“The DA should conduct a more in-depth investigation how this happened. If proven to have violated the law, perpetrators must face the consequences,” Peduche said.

Francisco Matulac, president of the Bayanihan Lateral G-7 Irrigators Association said the perpetrators should not go scot-free.

DA-10’s fact-finding team, created by Alcala in July 2010, found that there was only one bidder and that the organic fertilizer delivered did not comply with the specifications, “hence should have not been accepted and paid for.”

Alcala set up the team in response to a resolution from the Provincial Board of Bukidnon. In June 2010, the board made an investigation on the program’s procurement process as well as the supplier, quality and price of the fertilizer.

The investigation was conducted after the second stage of the three-phase had been implemented to the tune of P9.55 million.

Peduche, a former provincial board member, received a copy of the report only on August 2, 2011. The fact-finding team submitted its 18-page report to Alcala in September 2010.

The team reported that only one firm, MLB Enterprises, submitted a bid, and was awarded the P9.55-million contract for its “single lowest calculated and responsive bid.” But the team noted the BAC did not conduct actual site inspection of the bidder or its suppliers during the post-qualification stage of the procurement process.

“The post-qualification was only limited to the legal, technical, and financial documents submitted by MLB Enterprises,” it said, adding the NIA, the procuring entity, did not conduct
testing and inspection of the quality of the fertilizers upon delivery.

“The goods were inspected and received based only on quantity and not on quality,” said the three-member fact-finding team led by Roxana Hojas, DA-10 regional technical director for operations.

The contract requires the firm to deliver 11,000 bags of organic fertilizer and 14,625 liters of “foliar liquid fertilizer cum pesticide” within 20 calendar days to the NIA’s Bukidnon Irrigation Management Office in Bagonta-as, Valencia City.

On July 23, 2010, investigators took samples from a portion of the third-phase supply of the project in the NIA warehouse in Valencia. The fact-finding team found out that the samples tested did not comply with the required NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) specifications as printed on the labels in the bags.

The results, they said in the report, would show that the fertilizers failed to comply with the specifications of the procuring entity, “hence should have not been accepted and paid for”.

The team added that NIA inspectors “failed to notice the very glaring fact that the packaging of the organic fertilizer did not indicate the FPA registration number, which is the standard.”

The team reported, however, that in their dialogue with the irrigation association leaders who were recipients of the project, “all of them had positive feedback on the results of their harvest when they started using and applying the fertilizers” distributed by NIA.

“In fact, they were highly disappointed when NIA stopped the distribution,” it added.

The team also found out that MLB Enterprises actually do not sell Grow Organic Fertilizers – the one they supplied to NIA – in their store in Valencia City.

“They informed us that those items were not available in their store and were only bought specifically for their contract with NIA-10,” said the report.

The team recommended to Alcala the withdrawal and replacement of all the organic and foliar fertilizers.

Last year, the Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority in Region 10 issued a stop-use/stop-sale order against the products delivered for the NIA project. About 2,700 bags of “grow organic” fertilizers and 3,741 bottles of Green Organic liquid fertilizers worth P2.3 million, believed to be a portion of the last of the three tranches of the P30-million fertilizer subsidy project, were held at the NIA warehouse in Valencia.

The fact-finding team’s report was silent on the allegations of overpricing and also on the problem of propriety they raised against 3K and C Enterprises, producer of fertilizers for MLB Enterprises.

The Bayugan-based organic fertilizer producer, 3k and C Enterprises, is owned by Carlos Salazar, who at the time of the project was the administrator of the National Irrigation Administration.

Peduche said the price of P390 per bag of the organic fertilizer was also “too high.” The same product sold at P250 to P300 in Valencia City, he said in June 2010.

Peduche alleged a scam but NIA regional director Julius Macquiling told the provincial board in June 2010 that nothing was irregular and they were open for investigation. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)