WHISTLEBLOWER Crisologo Saavedra intends to file more charges against officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) following a ruling by the Commission on Audit (COA) which found DPWH-7 officials liable for overpriced lampposts.
“I am happy to hear about it. Justice is partly served,” Saavedra told Cebu Daily News over the phone yesterday.
But he believes that DPWH officials linked to the scandal ought to be punished more for the “injury” they caused.
Saavedra added that he is also hoping that all the respondents in the cases pending before the Sandiganbayan will be convicted soon.
It was Saavedra who filed the graft charges against DPWH officials, two private contractors, and local government officials on the alleged overpriced lampposts before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas, prompting an investigation by the anti-graft office in March 2007.
The Ombudsman-Visayas said that a comparison of the costs of the P1,800 lampposts as indicated in the Program of Work and Estimates (POWE) and reflected in the importation documents showed the equipment were overpriced by nearly ten times their actual cost.
At present, graft cases are pending before the Sandiganbayan against nine DPWH officials, two private contractors and local government officials for the purchase.
Meanwhile, COA ordered former officials of the DPWH-7 to return the P43.95 million they paid to the contractor of the lampposts installed in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in 2007.
COA also directed its Prosecution and Litigation Office to refer the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for possible charges against the persons responsible for the controversial procurement of 660 lampposts for the two cities.
State auditors affirmed the disallowance of the partial payment already made to Gampik Construction and Development Inc., saying that the street lighting project was illegal since it did not go through public bidding.
The DPWH-7 skipped public bidding and entered into the contracts in September 2006 in preparation for the ASEAN Summit in January 2007. The total cost of the contracts was P54.94 million—about three times higher than COA’s evaluated cost of P19.38 million.
Although officials cited the lack of time in foregoing public bidding, the COA said it still did not justify the resort to negotiated procurement. The mode, it said, is allowed only in times of emergencies where there is imminent danger.
An audit report described the contract cost agreed upon by DPWH-7 and Gampik Construction and Development Inc. as “bloated and excessive” compared to the evaluated cost made by COA.
Saavedra said he intends to file additional charges against the DPWH officials based on the recent ruling by COA.
“The injury caused by these DPWH officials is more than what they are asked to pay. That transaction was simply overpriced,” Saavedra said.
The controversy, he said, should serve as a lesson to other government officials not to engage in any illegal transaction.
“There are just government officials who abuse their authority just because they want to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers’ money. They should stop doing it,” Saavedra said.
Both former mayors Thadeo Ouano of Mandaue City and Arturo Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City were impleaded in the lamppost scandal by the Ombudsman.
The Sandiganbayan dropped the lone case against Radaza in 2013.
Ouano was named in two cases. One case against him was dismissed in 2011, while the remaining case was junked after the former Mandaue City mayor passed away in February last year.
All respondents in the lamppost cases were earlier found guilty of grave misconduct by the Ombudsman-Visayas and were ordered dismissed from public service.
Ouano and Radaza, however, escaped the penalty because they were reelected.
Under the Aguinaldo Doctrine, reelection to office condones administrative liability for misconduct done during a previous term. However, criminal liability cannot be erased.
It was only in 2015 when the controversial doctrine was junked by the Supreme Court.
Aside from the two local officials, also impleaded in the charges were former DPWH-7 regional director Robert Lala and officers Gloria Dindin,
Marlina Alvizo, Pureza Fernandez, Cresencio Bagolor, Augustinito Hermoso, Luis Galang, and Restitutu Diano, and Buenaventura Pajo.