Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has assured that the implementation of the P3.27 billion Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) procurement contract to the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) for the construction of fire stations and supplies and equipment is on track.
Lopez, who is also chair of the DTI attached agency PITC, issued this assurance in reply to concerns raised by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto about the delay of the project and why PITC, the government’s trading arm, is involved in the construction of the BFP fire stations.
“The procurement process for fire trucks and fire station needs of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) is on track and awards for project implementation shall be issued before the year ends,” said Lopez in a statement.
Lopez explained that “The BFP outsourced the procurement of its fire trucks and the design and build of fire stations across the regions to the PITC in keeping with the Republic Act No. 9184, which is the government procurement law.”
“The PITC is only the procurement agent that works closely with the concerned agencies as to timetable and budget availability. The PITC acts in close collaboration with the BFP, which has representatives in our Bids and Awards Committee, and in the technical working group that approved the terms of reference for every procurement,” the trade chief said.
PITC President Dave Almarinez said that “The BFP contracted the PITC precisely because we are known to exercise strict due diligence to ensure that the contractors and suppliers are above board and able to fully comply with the requirements and needs of the BFP.”
He also assured that PITC shall immediately submit a detailed status report to Senator Recto.
The PITC is a government corporation that is often tapped by major departments and agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Department of Health (DOH), and the BFP, among several other institutions to ensure an independent and merit-based procurement process.
“Awards for the design and build of 72 fire stations will be out by the end of the year while 26 fire stations are undergoing project implementation which we are confident to finish by the end of December 2020 through a joint effort of the PITC and BFP,” the PITC said.
“We respect and appreciate the concerns raised by Senate President Pro Tempore Recto. The PITC shares his love and concern for our heroic firefighters, which is why we will never tolerate any shortcuts when it comes to the procurement of quality fire trucks and the design and build of fire stations around the country,” Almarinez added.
The PITC emphasized that it exercises full transparency in all of its transactions and that it adheres to the requirements of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the provisions of the procurement law.
Undersecretary Almarinez said that PITC has been getting unmodified audit opinion from the COA for four straight years.
“We have become one of the top contributors to government revenues precisely because we try our very best to deliver the best service to our people. This is why government agencies have come to rely on the PITC to service some of its procurement needs while they focus on their core functions and programs,” the PITC chief said.
He added that “We are independent, process-driven, and transparency-oriented. We also value the trust of our partner-agencies and look out for the best interests of their staff and the constituents that they serve.”
On Monday, Recto cited a report by the COA against the PITC. In September, COA said that aside from funds transferred by the BFP to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Procurement Service, P3.264 billion were also allocated to the PITC in 2019.
According to COA, these projects handled by PITC that remained undelivered include the following: fire trucks, aerial ladders, and other equipment (P999.7 million), 11 fire stations for Regions 1, 3, 4A, 4B, CAR, NCR (P104.8 million), fire trucks from the Fire Code revenue (P1.5 billion), and 87 fire stations from the Fire Code revenue (P787.5 million).
The COA report also said that “Various funds transferred to PS-DBM and PITC totaling P4,309,079,407.58 for the procurement of supplies, materials, equipment and infrastructure projects remained undelivered and outstanding for several years.”
“Thus, depriving the agency of the immediate use of the items which are crucial in the discharge of the agency’s operation and unnecessarily making the fund idle in the custody of the PS-DBM and PITC,” the COA report added.
The senator further hinted that these issues may only be the “tip of the iceberg” stressing this is not the first time PITC failed to deliver materials or equipment needed by government offices like BFP.
In 2019, PITC’s attention was called after it only delivered around 10 percent of all the equipment procured by the Philippine National Police (PNP) dating back to 2016. In that report, COA said that PNP has already transferred P1.347 billion of its funds to PITC, but the amount of items delivered was only at P137.4 million.
COA again flagged PITC recently, after it was revealed that not all of the items in the previous audit report was delivered in 2019 — only P311.06 million of the P1.347 billion.