Press Release
February 13, 2008


Senator Chiz Escudero today reiterated his call to convene the congressional oversight committee for overseas development assistance (ODA) to prevent and avoid wanton approval of loan agreements which he said, "skirts the constitutional provision which states that funds can only leave the Treasury pursuant to an appropriation made by Congress."

Escudero repeated this call after the palace created the Procurement Transparency Group (PTG), which claims to link the government with the private sector in ensuring transparency in government procurements. Escudero said this is a knee-jerk reaction from the palace after unrelenting scandals continue to break after one another in this administration.

The senator said ODA's oversight committee should have long been established as mandated by Republic Act Number 8182 or the ODA Law. He said convening this oversight committee will serve as a buffer from the executive who has mastered the art of binding the government to obligations and then badger Congress to provide counterpart funds and later interest payments for programs the legislature has had no hand in approving".

Escudero said with the oversight committee, department officials who have grown accustomed to the habit of signing contracts with foreign entities and pass these on to Congress as obligations that need to be funded, cannot anymore do so, like in the case of the controversial ZTE and Cyber Ed projects.

"The problems and issues that have resulted from the said projects can be addressed permanently with the amendment of the Republic Act 9184 also known as the Government Procurement Act" he said.

The senator last year filed Senate Bill 1963 which seeks to address three points in the currently existing government procurement system embodied in the RA 9184 in view of the recent anomalous contracts favored and concluded by the government such as the ZTE and the CyberEd projects.

Firstly, according to Escudero, the bill puts under the coverage of RA No. 9184 the procurement of infrastructure projects, goods and consulting services funded by loan or credit under the Official Development Act, RA No. 8182, as amended.

Escudero said this is in the light of the interpretation that the procurement of certain infrastructure projects, goods and services can be made exempt from the operation of RA No. 9184 on the basis of Section 4 of said law which mandates the observation of treaties or international or executive agreements affecting procurement in relation to Section 1 of RA 8555 which on the other hand empowers the President of the Republic to waive application of any law in deference to the contracting of a loan or credit with a lending institution.

Secondly, SB 1963 proposes to strengthen and advance transparency by mandating the posting of decisions of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) relative to criteria, ratings and calculations of bids as well as all other bids, responsive or otherwise, on the procuring agency's website or that of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB).

Thirdly, the bill seeks to lessen the discretion of procuring agencies specifically in the consideration of single calculated/rated and responsive bid submissions, and the use of observers. "In this manner the procuring agency will have the inability to rig biddings through a consensus amongst competing contractors or bidders in that agency" Escudero said.

The senator added that on the matter of using observers in the bidding process, the invitation of observers is made strict by limiting the number of times an observer can be invited by a procuring agency. This is being proposed in consideration of the fact that the observers who become regulars of the BAC become friendly, if not, even cohorts in anomalous biddings and transactions.

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