Rama to dept heads: Cooperate with NBI in probe on garbage deal

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has directed all City Hall departments concerned to cooperate with the National Bureau of Investigation Central Visayas (NBI 7) in its ongoing probe on the City’s controversial garbage deal last year.Rama’s order came after he talked to NBI 7 Director Rennan Augustus Oliva for updates on the City Council’s request last year for the latter to investigate alleged irregularities in the City’s garbage hauling contracts in 2021.Earlier, the Commission on Audit (COA) released its annual audit report of the city’s transactions which disclosed the irregularities in the City’s deal with two private firms, Docast Construction and JJ & J Construction and General Supply, for the collection of garbage in 2021.“I instructed the offices concerned to provide the NBI salient documents it had asked for to complete its investigation on an apparent garbage plunder,” Rama said Thursday, July 28, 2022.In a statement to the Cebu City Public Information Office, Oliva said the NBI had secured relevant documents on the transactions, particularly those done from January to June 2021, when the controversial deal allegedly took place.The NBI 7 also issued a subpoena to City Treasurer Mare Vae Reyes to appear before its office on Aug. 9. NBI 7 requested Reyes to bring documents including copies of certified disbursement vouchers in connection with the disposal services provided by Docast and JJ & J from June to December 2021.Other documents the NBI 7 required from Reyes are the contracts of service, award of bidding, billing statement and summary of deliveries, among others.Lawyer John Jigo Dacua of the city’s Department of Public Services (DPS) said he and his office are willing to cooperate with the NBI on its investigation.Oliva assured Rama that those involved in the alleged irregular deal will be sued before the court.‘Multisectoral’ investigationCebu City Councilor and minority floor leader Nestor Archival delivered a privilege speech during the City Council’s regular session on Wednesday, asking Rama, among others, to create a “multisectoral” body that will conduct an investigation on the city’s garbage expenses, to supplement COA’s 2021 investigation.He also asked Rama to hold an executive session and invite concerned departments and Docast and JJ& J, to inquire if they had ever received payment from the City.Archival told SunStar Cebu Thursday that there were still unanswered questions concerning the previous administration’s deal with the two firms.Edgardo Labella was mayor until his death from illness on Nov. 19, 2021, after which then vice mayor Rama assumed the post of mayor.Aside from what was raised by COA, Archival said he questioned why Docast charged the City full garbage fees in 2021 even though the firm lacked the trucks to manage all areas of the city for trash collection.He said the two firms were charging full fees to the City even though garbage trucks operated by the city’s DPS and the barangays actually collected the waste not collected by the two firms.That was the reason he asked Rama to organize an investigating body composed of non-City Hall personnel to probe the City’s deal between the two firms. The results would serve as basis for the possible filing of criminal and administrative charges against those found to be involved.To avoid conflict of interest, Archival said, the investigating body must be led by a City Hall official but its membership should not include anyone from City Hall.Archival also asked Rama to request the NBI to submit its report and to hold an executive session with concerned department heads and with the two firms to determine if they had actually been paid for the garbage collection that they didn’t do.Possible Ombud caseArchival said that while the COA’s annual audit report would have served as evidence for the filing of charges against those involved in the controversy, it was not sufficient.He preferred that the City gather more evidence to supplement the COA’s findings before pursuing charges against those responsible.In its annual audit report, state auditors said some Cebu City officials face disallowance for the payment of P81 million to Docast and JJ & J due to “irregularities” found in the city’s garbage deal.The P80.9 million covered the first billing for services rendered from Jan. 29, 2021 to March 6, 2021.State auditors pointed out that the firms started hauling garbage even though the city’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) had yet to conduct post qualification activities.Docast and JJ & J also failed to secure a BAC declaration that they were qualified to provide the garbage hauling service.State auditors recommended to the City to direct the BAC to submit the lacking documents and to explain why they recommended awarding the contract to the two firms despite “glaring grounds” that would disqualify them as contractors. (PAC, JKV)