NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED BY THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
A considerable number of local contractors have reluctantly turned away from the bidding of provincial infrastructure contracts as they grapple with the crippling tentacles of corruption plaguing the bidding of the infrastructure projects of the Provincial Government of Bohol.
“Competing in the bidding process for provincial projects has been unnerving, stressful, and confusing as the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) has utterly disregarded certain provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9184 while fixing a certain amount to secure the award of a contract and the obligatory clearance from a non-government person to play a part in a rigged bidding.”
The majority of the projects of the province are sourced from the utilization of 20% of the annual Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for its development projects as appropriated in its annual budget.
OLD SONG, NEW LYRICS
This was the distressing mantra of maverick Engineer PetroniloSarigumba, president of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered 55-member Association of Bohol Construction Companies, Inc. (ABBCI) as the alarm was again raised against “favored contractors” saying “these allegations have been around for as long as anyone dealing with government biddings can remember.”
However, Sarigumba pointed out, with the concurrence of several local contractors who requested anonymity that what they feared most is the “18%” amount tacked into every collection for payment of their percentage accomplishment.
An added burden to the 18% which could even reach as high as 23% to include pay-offs to several key government personnel is the face-off between the contractor and a certain “Irwin Sy” publicly named by Sarigumba as the final arbiter on who bags the contract with the blessings of top provincial officials.
Sy’s name has been on the lips of disgruntled local contractors who were personally rebuffed in favor of out-of-town contractors where projects were earlier earmarked to them.
Even the purchase of bid documents need the stamp of approval from Sy before these are handed over to interested bidders by the BAC secretariat to ensure the strict compliance of “special conditions” imposed by the BAC, according to Sarigumba.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
Sarigumba personally narrated his ordeal when he was refused the purchase of bid documents after Sy informed him that a certain contract was already allocated to a certain bidder.
Sarigumba threatened the BAC that he will expose those who will refuse to provide him with the bid documents of a project even without the approval of Sy.
Ignoring the 18% pay-off, according to Sarigumba, his bid offer was less than 18% which was grudgingly declared the lowest bid by the BAC against the offer of Muana Construction which he identified as the contractor who corners almost more than half of the provincial infrastructure projects.
As expected, Sarigumba was disqualified during the post-qualification phase because of certain slip-ups in his previous projects that led to Muana Construction eventually winning the contract.
Muana Construction and Development Corporation, a Cebu-based construction company bagged more than PhP27.1 billion in three years of the nine-year term (2010-2019) of Governor Arthur Yap as 3rd District Congressman, according to records of the 3rd District Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Several local contractors who were less daring and suffered the same fate as experienced by Sarigumba preferred to nurse their dismay in silence but rather talked in whispers in anticipation of favorable follow-up projects.
The provincial projects are tailored to satisfy the 18% pay-off to a top government official with the winning bidder implementing the items from the program of works with substandard materials and clever construction shortcuts to compensate for the loss of more or less 23% pay-offs, according to Sarigumba.
However, some bidders have shown enough courage to threaten corrupt BAC members with public exposure as leverage to at least participate in the project biddings, according to multiple sources.
The National Bureau of Investigation, (NBI) has initiated an investigation on the allegations of Sarigumba with two special agents personally gathering documents from different offices involved in the public bidding of projects. (Chito M. Visarra)