PDAF spent on “multipurpose tents” worth P43,000 each

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29  August) —  A total of P22.276 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Reps. Thelma Zosa Almario, her son Joel Mayo Almario (Representative until 30 June 2007, now Vice Governor of Davao Oriental) and Rep. Antonio Floirendo Lagdameo (Davao del Norte) was spent on 590 “multipurpose tents” supposedly supplied by PZA Trading between 2007 and 2009, according to the Commission on Audit’s Special Audits Office Report No. 2012-03 published in the COA website on August 16, 2013.

The COA report listed under these representatives several items purchased from PZA Trading. But let us focus on the multipurpose tents (see table).

Rep. TZ Almario

ITEMS(as listed in COA report) COST
(as listed in COA report)
UNIT PRICE (computed by MindaNews)
115 units of multipurpose tents P4.966 M P43,182.608
100 units of multipurpose tents P4.348 M P43,480.00
  80 units of multipurpose tents P3.454 M P43,175.00
   2 units of  multipurpose tents P    87,000 P43,500.00
TOTAL: 297 tents  P12.855 M P43.282.82 average

Rep. JM Almario

ITEMS(as listed in COA report) COST
(as listed in COA report)
UNIT PRICE (computed by MindaNews)
24 units of multipurpose tents P0.900 M P37,500
22 units of multipurpose tents P0.825 M P37,500
TOTAL: 46 tents P1.725 M P37,500 average

Rep. Lagdameo

ITEMS(as listed in COA report) COST
(as listed in COA report)
UNIT PRICE (computed by MindaNews)
115 units of multipurpose tents P1.983 M P17.243
132 units of multipurpose tents P5.713 M P43,280
TOTAL: 247 P7.696 M P31,157.89 average

Note that the prices for the tent vary, although most of them cost at least P43,000, a princely sum for a very ordinary, typical politician’s multipurpose tent that costs at 2013 prices in Davao City, around P15,000 on a single, not bulk purchase.

The supplier charged to the PDAF of Reps.Thelma Almario and Lagdameo, different prices for the same number of  115 multipurpose tents: P4.966 million for Almario and P1.983 million for Lagdameo.

PZA Trading apparently is a “multipurpose” supplier, too, for it was identified also as the supplier of hauling trucks, digital satellite receivers and public address systems as well: Rep. Thelma Almario’s six hauling trucks (P873,000 for one and P4.363 million for five); Rep. Joel Almario’s 109 sets of digital satellite receiver (P9 million or P82,568 each), public address systems at P6.676 million or 79,476.190 each).

The catch, however, according to the COA report, is that PZA Trading “cannot be located at its given address as it reportedly moved out.”

It also noted that while procurements were undertaken from CYs 2007 to 2009, “the supplier has permit only for CY 2009;” that all items procured were “not published in the PhilGEPS and in newspaper of nationwide general circulation but claimed to have been published in Mindanao Mercury Times, Bandera and Global Times.”

Efren Elbanbuena, regional director of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Southern Mindanao said he is not aware there is such a paper called“ Mindanao Mercury Times.”

The COA report added that “there were also no distribution lists of all items procured. All these items were received either by Congresswoman Thelma Almario herself, by a Mr. Michael Alcobe for CongwomanAlmario, by a certain Ms Ginalyn Ibanez, staff of Congw. Almario, by a certain Mr.Rober A. Pabro, Political Officer Assistant for Vice Gov.”

As for Lagdameo, the COA noted similar findings as to PZA Trading, that it cannot be located at its given address. It also said the procurement was not published in the PhilGEPs but supported only with quotations from three suppliers. “The items were received by Mr. Edwin Paradillo, Congressional Staff, and there was no submitted distribution list.”

It also said the procurement was published in Mindanao Mercury Times “which can not be general circulation.”

The 132 tents were received by “a certain Mr. Restituto T. Jaylon, purportedly on behalf of Congressman Lagdameo and was not supported with actual list of recipients.”

Generose Tecson, Lagdameo’s chief of staff, told MindaNews they submitted the distribution list and receiving copies to the DA immediately after each delivery and that they had nothing to do with the purchase and selection of supplier.

Almario replies

Rep. Thelma Almario did not answer MindaNews’ queries but her son, Vice Governor Joel Almario, did.

The Vice Governor told MindaNews on Sunday afternoon, August 25, that he had not read the COA report but acknowledged that the items were delivered by the DA (Department of Agriculture) Regional office “to me in Mati and received by my staff, and later TZA (TZA are the initials of his mom) staff, Roger Pabio.”

He said the items were subsequently distributed to the beneficiaries “who requested for these items.”

“All barangays in the province received at least one tent each. Some schools and farmer groups, among other groups also received tents. All barangays received one public address system each. For the satellites, some barangays that requested received them.  We gave DA region copies of the distribution list and IRPs which reflect the transfer of ownership,” he said.

“As to PZA Trading, we have no info on that since it was DA that implemented the procurement process from advertising to delivery. Our participation was to transmit to DA the (request for) items needed by our constituents and to receive the items from DA and to distribute these items to our constituents,” he said, adding, he “assumed all transactions were scrutinized by DA’s resident auditor.”

After MindaNews e-mailed him a link to the COA report and asked him why the tent costs so much each, Almario sent this explanation: “If you will divide the  total allocation by the number of tents, it will come up to a unit cost. I honestly didn’t know if that was expensive as I did not bother to canvass how much each would cost if I bought the same item elsewhere. First because I deemed it not my responsibility but that of the implementing agency as it has to strictly follow the procurement law especially on the lowest qualified bid. Second, government purchases have indirect cost such as taxes. In fact for DPWH, the usual direct cost of a project is  65-70% with the balance broken down to taxes, profit, overhead, engineering, and management costs, etc. I didn’t bother to know the indirect costs for DA,” Almario said.

A third point he raised is that he was “confident any irregularity, if ever, would have been checked by COA since all processes pass through it even before the items were delivered to my office. So my assumption was if the items were delivered to me, everything was in order.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have accepted them.”

“As to PZA, I can only surmise from your txt that it supplied the tents. Maybe so but I still don’t know who/what this is as I wasn’t privy to the procurement process,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

This piece was first published in the August 26 issue of OUR Mindanao weekly newsmagazine.