Mayor Jocelyn Uy-De Jesus of Jiabong, Samar, is set to face 16 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) before the Sandiganbayan for the anomalous procurement of catering services in 2012.

Also included in the charge sheet are Municipal Budget Officer Arnaldo Morabor, Municipal Treasurer Erna Morabor, Municipal Accountant Rolando Jabeguero and private respondent Helen Labrague, proprietor of Helen’s Catering Services.

In its Annual Audit Report for 2012, the Commission on Audit (COA) uncovered that the municipality disbursed a total of P2,617,912.50 for the procurement of 32 catering service contracts, 16 of which were awarded to Helen’s Catering Services.

The COA found that respondents illegally resorted to the alternative method of procurement even if the Approved Budget for the Contract for the individual transactions exceeded the thresholds set by Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).

Investigation also uncovered that: supporting documents do not contain details such as the dates of activity; purchase requests, purchase orders and disbursement vouchers are undated and without any control or reference numbers; lack of quotations from suppliers who allegedly submitted their canvass; non-submission of eligibility documents of supplier; and lack of accomplished requests for quotation.

The COA also noted the low turn-out of participants in the activities wherein the municipality failed to submit any attendance sheets.

In the Ombudsman’s Joint Resolution, it was stated that “it is undisputed that the value of the 16 catering transactions exceeded the threshold set by law, yet public respondent Arnaldo proceeded with the procurement thereof without public bidding.  Despite the patent irregularities in the supporting documents, public respondents De Jesus, Erna and Jabeguero still caused payment to private respondent [Labrague].  Public respondents’ flagrant disregard of R.A. No. 9184 is evidenced by the fact that they committed the infractions 16 times in 2012.”

In the related administrative case, Arnaldo, Erna and Jabeguero were found guilty of Grave Misconduct and were ordered dismissed from the service.  Arnaldo was also found guilty of Serious Dishonesty.

The penalty of dismissal from the service carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility, and bar from taking the civil service examination.

In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ salary for one year.

Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials from causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. ###