THE Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict former members of the board of directors of the Cagayan de Oro Water District, a former general manager of the utility, and Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the controversial 2004 deal between the COWD and Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc..
On its website, the Office of the Ombudsman announced yesterday its ruling against former COWD chairman Raymundo Java for two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, former vice chairman Sandy Bass Sr. (two counts), former directors Sarah Borja and Francisco Mendez (one count each), former treasurer Bibiana Sarmiento (one count), former secretary Joel Baldelovar (one count), former COWD general manager Gaspar Gonzales Jr. (two counts), and former Local Water Utilities administrator Lorenzo Jamora (one count).
Also indicted were private respondents Edward Chona, president and general manager of Geo-Transport and Construction Inc. and Gov. Alvarez, owner of the bulk water supplier Rio Verde. They were accused of conspiracy with the former COWD officials.
The ombudsman said it found that on Dec. 23, 2004, COWD entered into a Bulk Water Supply Agreement with Rio Verde for the supply of treated bulk water. It said documents reveal that even before the submission and opening of the bids on Nov. 18, 2004, the BOD already declared Rio Verde as qualified to participate in the bidding despite the consortium’s failure to submit its eligibility documents such as its income tax returns and audited financial statements.
The ombudsman said the contract was prepared solely by Rio Verde with no opportunity for the signatories to read and review the provisions.
For this reason, it took the COWD board two years and two months to notice the difference between the model contract and the signed contracts specifically on items concerning the billing rates, according to the ombudsman. Consequently, the consortium billed COWD P11.52 per cubic meter instead of P10.45 per cubic meter as previously agreed upon by the parties, it said.
“In so doing, not only did respondent Board members contravene the procurement law and blatantly demonstrate impropriety and partiality, they also belie their averment that they did not receive the BAC Resolution disqualifying the RVW consortium,” reads part of the ombudsman’s resolution.
The resolution added that “respondents acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality and gross inexecusable negligence when they signed the contract without first reading it, to the prejudice of the COWD.”
Java, Bass, Sarmiento, and Baldelovar were also indicted for violation of Section 7(d) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) for accepting two water tankers and a brand new Toyota Revo vehicle in connection with a negotiated contract which the ombudsman said was illegal.
Investigation showed that on Dec. 23, 2005, a Supplemental Agreement for the Cagayan de Oro City Water Supply System Improvement Project was entered into between COWD and GTCI with a contract price of some P193.185 million. The ombudsman said records show that there was no public bidding and the project was awarded through a negotiated contract. (source: https://www.ombudsman.gov.ph)