By Ben Rosario
The Commission on Audit (COA) has affirmed the liability of a municipal mayor in the purchase of over P33 million worth of heavy equipment and asked the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a criminal investigation into the incident.
In a recently-released decision, the three-man COA-Commission Proper (COA-CP) said Mayor Ace William E. Cerilles of Dumalinao, Zamboanga del Sur should be held liable for the purchase of ten units of various heavy equipment in 2011 for violating provisions of Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.
In the decision that affirmed the Notice of Disallowance (ND) issued by the regional director (RD) of COA Regional Office No. IX, the COA-CP also held liable Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairman Hermes Cabales, supplier ESR General Merchandise, Municipal Accountant Elma Fe. Ema-Bravo, and other members of the BAC.
The case stemmed from the municipal government’s decision to purchase in 2011 various heavy equipment, including a SKAI TW41 road roller, P2,309,000; one TCM 50B payloader , P4,915,000; one Mitsubishi L62H grader, P4,935,000; and one CAT D6C grade bulldozer, P4,715,000, among other heavy machinery.
On post-audit examination, COA auditors discovered that various provisions of the Government Procurement Act were not observed during the procurement process and the payment of the delivered equipment.
Among the cited violations of the law are the failure to conduct pre-procurement conference’ identifying preferred brand names as reflected in the purchase request and invitation to bid, posting by the bidder of insufficient bond, and the failure of the supplier to sign the document declaring a 12-month basic warranty coverage for the purchased machinery.
In a petition for review filed by Cerilles, he stressed that there has been no finding of malice or bad faith on his part when he approved the purchase, adding that personal liability is not automatic in the case.
Cerilles also said the disallowance was “merely based on the alleged deficiencies.”
“This Commission finds no cogent reason to depart from the decision of the RD,” the COA-CP declared in its ruling.
The panel headed by COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo pointed out that in his appeal, the petitioner failed to refute the findings of the RD.
“His liaiblity for therein disallowance would be his assent to award the contract despite the non-compliance with the government procurement law,” the COA-CP explained
The COA-CP upheld the RD’s decision to issue an ND and ordered the agency’s Prosecution and Litigation Office to refer the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for investigation and prosecution, if warranted.
Meanwhile, Aguinaldo wrote a separate opinion that recommended the reduction of the disallowance, saying this should be based on the “reasonable’ value of any heavy equipment that was delivered.
Citing a Supreme Court ruling on Melchor vs. COA, Aguinaldo said COA should compute the cost of the equipment on the basis of quantum meruit which should reflect the actual value of the equipment.