New TESDA chief cancels procurement deals worth P112 M

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:33:00 08/05/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Barely warming his seat, the new chief of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Joel Villanueva, said Thursday he has cancelled P112 million in allegedly anomalous procurement contracts and ordered an investigation into the agency’s failure pay a total of P1 billion to several training centers and schools to fund vocational scholarships.

Villanueva, former CIBAC sectoral representative and a known critic of the past administration, found at least two allegedly overpriced deals at the state-run vocational institution on his first day as Tesda chair on Wednesday.

“I'm no longer surprised. Right now, the biggest problem is the image problem. I've been hearing about hundreds and thousands of complaints,” Villanueva told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Thursday.

First on Villanueva's strike list was a P73-million procurement of desktop 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.

Villanueva canceled the bid just before it was to be awarded.

“We saw that there was a 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 as the prices of IT products, including those included in the procurement, had already gone down.

A P39-million deal for the delivery of training tools also caught Villanueva's attention. The amount, which covered the procurement of dough cutters, among other things, also reeked of price padding, the Tesda chief said.

For one, the dough cutters were procured at a unit price of P14,400, some 120 times the actual price of P120.

The questionable procurement was already the subject of a report released by the Commission on Audit but was still a go before he sat at Tesda's helm, he said.

A check with Tesda's regional training centers also showed that items covered by the project were never delivered while others were of poor quality or did not meet 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,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva said he has also ordered an investigation into some P1 billion worth of training scholarships that Tesda owes its training centers and several partner schools.

“While I recognize the need of some schools for scholarships, this amount was not appropriated in the budget so I immediately ordered an investigation into this matter,” Villanueva said.

The Tesda chief ordered his legal department to look into how these three cases came about.

To prevent a repeat of these incidents, Villanueva plans to make Tesda's bidding procedure more transparent, including broadcasting the bidding through live-streaming online.

“I won't mind if they put my office in the Big Brother house (the reality TV show). I have nothing to hide,” he said.

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