Press Release
October 27, 2006


Instead of disputing the matter, the World Bank should take a second and closer look into the irregularities in the procurement of textbooks under its Second Social Expenditure Management Project.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that if the World Bank were serious about fraud and corruption in the projects it finances, it should have no trouble digging into the contracts involving the Vibal Group of Bidders.

If the World Bank indeed treats cases involving allegations or signs of fraud or corruption in projects it financed as a very serious issue, then the contracts hogged by Vibal during the past so many years is worth looking into, Lacson said.

Lacson had sought a Senate investigation into the track record of the governments textbook procurement program, whose records show Vibal and sister companies cornered three-fourths of contracts under the WB program since 1999.

How come a single bidder was able to obtain more than 75 percent of the contracts under the WB program? Is that a healthy sign of a fair, open and transparent competition? Theres definitely something wrong here and I am intent in looking into the bottom of it, he said.

Also, Lacson disputed the claim of WB Philippines country director Joachim von Amsberg that the increase in bidders has made it difficult for bidders to collude. He said the increase was artificial and ironically the result of big-time suppliers colluding with each other.

Lacson said a complaint recently filed against Vibal before the WB Department of Institutional Integrity should speak for itself, adding his concern is to eliminate corrupt practices in the procurement of these textbooks to improve the quality of educational materials being used in the Philippine school system.

These textbook procurements may be under WB guidelines but we also have to abide by the procurement laws of our country, he added, referring to Philippine laws that penalize collusion.

Earlier, Lacson told the Department of Education (DepEd) to take a closer look into how monopoly has marred the bidding procedures for its textbook procurement program, especially those involving foreign loans.

The DepEd is asking for some P2.064 billion for textbooks for 2007. If the monopoly is not addressed, following the pattern, the Vibal Group stands to corner some P1.5 billion, Lacson said.

Citing records reaching his office, Lacson said the Department of Budget and Management awarded almost P500 million in textbook contracts to two disqualified bidders only last September.

Citing figures from the DBM Procurement Service, Lacson said the contracts involved the supply and delivery of textbooks and teachers manuals on Sibika Grades 1-3; Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika (HeKaSi) Grades 4-6; and Araling Panlipunan Years I-IV.

He said the government awarded the contracts to Watana Phanit Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd.; Vibal Publishing House Inc.; and Daewoo International Corp. last Sept. 25.

But as early as Feb. 28 this year, the Inter-Agency Bids and Awards Committee had already disqualified Vibal and Watana from the bidding due to conflict of interest.

On the other hand, Lacson noted that Watana Phanit, SD Publishing, Alkem and JTW are all partners of the Vibal Group, resulting in unfair competition for the Vibal Group.

Worse, he said the World Bank came to the rescue of Vibal by choosing to disregard the violation.

This is a blatant and gross violation of procurement laws. Somebody definitely made money out of this deal and I am not talking about suppliers of the textbooks but of some people in government, he said.

He added Vibal has been a very fortunate group, having been awarded 75.96 percent of the bids from 1999 to 2004 or P2,658,756,511 and for being favored by an influential institution who bends its own rule just to accommodate their desired end.

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