MANILA, Philippines— Barely warming his seat, the new director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has canceled procurements amounting to P112 million and ordered an inquiry into some P1 billion worth of scholarships that the agency apparently owed certain training centers and schools.
Joel Villanueva, a former representative of the Cibac party-list group and a known critic of the Arroyo administration, Thursday told the Inquirer that he discovered at least two overpriced deals in his first briefing as TESDA chief on Wednesday. Among the past director generals of the state-run vocational institution are Pastor Guiao and Augusto Syjuco.
“I’m no longer surprised,” Villanueva said in a phone interview. “Right now, the biggest problem is the image problem. I’ve been hearing about hundreds, thousands, of complaints.”
First on Villanueva’s strike list was a P73-million procurement of computers, laptops and other electronic components for the e-TESDA project, the agency’s online portal where Internet users may sign up to browse training opportunities and related services.
He said he canceled the contract just before it was to be awarded.
“We saw that there was huge overpricing ... P10 million at least. I asked our legal department if I can actually hold it in abeyance and there was no problem, so I did,” Villanueva said.
He said the bid prices were higher than the prevailing market rates because the costs of IT products, including those included in the procurement, had already dropped.
Dough cutters etc.
A P39-million deal for training tools also caught Villanueva’s eye.
He said the amount, which covered the procurement of dough cutters, among others, appeared to be a case of price padding. The dough cutters, for one, were procured at a unit price of P14,400, or about 120 times the prevailing price of P120.
The questionable procurement was already a subject of a report from the Commission on Audit but was still a go before he took his oath of office, Villanueva said.
He said a check with TESDA’s regional training centers also showed that some of the items covered by the project were never delivered, and that the others were either of poor quality or below set specifications.
“We were discussing that we had P39 million in payables but I said that we should cancel it and stop paying. For me, that was not a bad first day at all,” he said.
P1B scholarships owed
Some P1 billion worth of scholarships that TESDA owes its training centers and partner schools are now the subject of an inquiry.
“While I recognize the need of some schools for scholarships, this amount was not appropriated in the budget,” Villanueva said.
He said he had ordered his legal department to look into how the scholarships and the two overpriced deals came about, particularly the bidding process that attended the P112-million procurements.
To prevent a repeat of these incidents, Villanueva plans to open TESDA’s bidding procedure to the public by broadcasting the bid through live-streaming online.
“I won’t mind if they put my office in the Big Brother house,” he said, referring to the reality TV show. “I have nothing to hide.”