Energy department’s expensive swag
THE Department of Energy has given away P9.19 million worth of “classy and branded” shoes, backpacks, tote bags, pens and umbrellas for personnel to gather “rock and oil samples,” which the Commission on Audit found “illegal, excessive, immoderate, lavish and extravagant.”
In its 2013 annual audit report, CoA said DoE bought “classy” brands of shoes like Skechers and Merrel shoes for P4,000 to P5,000 a pair.
It also bought “high-end” North Face backpacks costing P4,300 each, CoA said.
The DoE also gave away Parker pens and expensive jackets and t-shirts as part of its “promotional materials” for its awareness campaign nationwide.
The DoE said the field shoes are necessary in the conduct of routine field investigations in rugged mountains, slippery terrain to gather rock, coal, oil, gas, petroleum and biodiesel samples necessitating tough but lightweight, durable and non-slip field shoes.
“The field bags are used to carry paraphernalia for sample collection such as geological hammer, compass, etc. It is also used for the safekeeping of laptop computers and other energy instruments during the duration of travels from DoE to plant site,” the DoE told CoA in response to a letter dated Jan. 30, 2015.
The cover letter was signed by CoA auditor and director Cecilia Camon, who provided then Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla the CoA report, a copy of which The Standard has obtained.
But the CoA said the shoes and backpacks were also given to non-technical personnel, not only to technical personnel who are the ones who do field work.
“Five agency personnel received more than one pair of shoes and more than one backpack,” CoA said.
CoA said the purchases were contrary to policies on irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant and unconscionable expenditures.
The field supplies purchased by DoE included 104 backpacks at P3,500-P4,300 each for a total of P412,500.
Some 156 pairs of shoes at P4,000-P5,000 per pair or a total of P676,500 were also distributed as were 49 jackets at P1,300-P1,400 apiece or a total of P65,100.
DoE spent a total of P1.15 million for the field supplies, CoA said.
On the other hand, the promotional materials purchased by DoE included 2,050 backpacks at P297-P1,480 per piece or a total of P668,000; 4,400 jackets worth P403-P897 apiece or a total of P2,616,800; 11,585 t-shirts at P110-P240 per piece or a total of P1,945,825; 9,270 tote or utility bags at P37.50-P136 per piece or a total of P989,750; 500 Parker pens at P450 per piece or a total of P225,000; 1,000 umbrellas at P168 apiece or a total of P168,000, and other items like coin banks and ID at P7.60-P65 per piece or a total of P1.43 million.
The promotional materials cost the department P8.04 million.
CoA said the release of P1.15 million for backpacks, field shoes, and field jackets and categorizing these items as field supplies were contrary to existing rules.
It cited The Handbook on the Audit of Government Expenditures, which states: “In all cases where the law authorizes the furnishing of uniforms only, this should be construed to include only regulation caps, pants, and coats. Unless expressly mentioned, the auditor shall not allow the purchase of shoes as part of uniform at government expense.”
“Clearly from the above regulations, backpacks, field shoes and jackets are not part of the uniform to be given to employees,” the audit agency said.
The lack of legal basis for the purchases make these “irregular expenditures,” CoA said.
DoE defended the purchases by saying the shoes and jackets were supposed to keep the personnel safe while working in the field while the promotional materials were for the participants of the Information, Education, and Communication campaigns in different parts of the country “to raise awareness on the requirements of the program.”
But the COA said these represented “unnecessary, excessive and extravagant expenditures.”
“These expenditures are immoderate, prodigal, lavish, luxurious, [and] grossly excessive injudicious,” the COA said.
The agency also called the expenses on promotional materials “immoderate.”
It added that the DoE claim that the items were distributed to participants of the IEC campaign was not supported by distribution lists.
It added that there were cheaper alternatives to the items bought.
COA added six purchase orders with a total amount of P840,500 covering the purchase of the items were awarded to the same supplier, Victores Marketing.
The POs have the same date approval, Dec. 28, 2012 and same date of receipt by supplier, April 3, 2013. This was a gap of 96 days between the PO approval and the date of acceptance by the supplier, COA said.
The, the agency said, was a violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act, which said the winning bidder must accept the PO within 10 days of its approval.