Newly-designated Schools Division Superintendent Susan S. Collano admitted last week that she attended a welcome party, complete with a band, at a San Andres beach resort owned by a supplier of the Department of Education’s P28-million feeding program for Catanduanes pupils.
The revelation came during the Feb. 11 committee hearing of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on three issues raised by Provincial Board Member Edwin Tanael in a privilege speech ten days earlier.
Under questioning from the veteran legislator, Dr. Collano initially replied that there was no party, only a customary luncheon at Amenia beach resort where she said everybody had fun in the evening with music provided by a local band.
It was later established that the Bids & Awards Committee (BAC) of the Catanduanes Schools Division Office opened the bids for the supply of nutritious food, at a cost of P14,412,600.00, on Nov. 23, 2020, three weeks after super typhoon Rolly hit the southern part of the province.
Three days later, the contract was awarded to Amenia Beach Resort & Catering Services as the lowest bidder.
SDS Despi issued the Notice to Proceed to Amenia Beach Resort on Dec. 4, informing the latter that work may commence on the Provision and Distribution of Nutritious Food for the Implementation of School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) effective from date of receipt of the notice.
But on Dec. 7, the proprietor, Amenia S. Panti, sent a letter to then SDS Danilo E. Despi, through Assistant SDS Ma. Luisa T. dela Rosa, requesting “minor modification” in the original menu for the feeding program, especially the fruit products.
She informed that the successive typhoons damaged the island’s agriculture, resulting to limited supply of fruits, including bananas which are in the DepEd menu.
Panti likewise reasoned that it would be difficult to import fruits considering the island’s location and existing health protocols.
The supplier submitted a new menu for the DepEd’s review and approval, assuring that the revised menu was reviewed by a health expert “so as not to sacrifice nutritional content of the food included in the menu.”
According to PBM Tanael, it was ASDS dela Rosa, who chairs the BAC, who favorably granted the Amenia request in a Dec. 10, 2020 letter.
“In this connection, the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) interposes no objections considering the abnormal situation and the aftermath of the successive typhoons, this province have suffered,” she informed.
A copy of the letter in PBM Tanael’s possession showed it was not signed by SDS Despi although his name and position were indicated below the word “APPROVED.”
According to approved division guidelines on the feeding program, the nutritious food products were supposed to be hygienically-packed in environment-friendly bags and/or in brown paper bags and distributed every day for 60 days.
The budget allocation for each beneficiary is P20, with P18 for the food items to be delivered to schools and P2 for operational expenses to be given to schools which will deliver the same to the pupils’ homes.
The food items are supposed to be delivered every Monday and Wednesday or twice a week, to allot 2-3 days for every food pack’s life span.
Among the foods included in the daily, 20-day cycle menu are: two ensaymada, a ripe banana and small toasted siopao, Spanish bread ripe banana; cheese bread and apple or dalandan; two malunggay pandesal with either butter, cheese or dalandan; two monay with peanut butter; pan de legazpi and apple; big toasted siopao; tuna sandwich; banana cake; empanada; two pan de coco; apple and cupcake; mamon bread; and, cinnamon bread.
In her Feb. 11 reply to the privilege speech, SDS Collano said the food that were served on Jan. 11-29, 2021 was based on the modified menu submitted by the supplier.
“The presence of molds in the delivered bread and some other issues were already brought to the attention of this office, hence, a meeting was called to address the concerns on January 28, 2021,” she stated.
The implemented menu was again revised, the SDS disclosed, with the breads that easily develop molds due to moisture replaced and fruits were already included.
In the SP committee hearing, ASDS dela Rosa revealed that pursuant to guidelines, the funds for the feeding program were supposed to be downloaded to school heads for implementation but the regional office decided to give the responsibility to the division office due to the school heads’ difficulty in liquidating cash advances.
SDS Despi wanted the program implemented by schools but the division’s budget officer and accountant recommended that it be done by the division due to the “very poor” liquidation performance of school heads.
Pressed by PBM Tanael on the disclosure, SDS Collano promised to provide the education committee with the report on the unliquidated funds released to school heads.
On the other hand, the Deped BAC also conducted the opening of bids for the Provision and Distribution of Commercial Milk on the Implementation of School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) for SY 2020-2021 on Dec. 17, 2020.
The contract involved the delivery of 33-gram sachet of flavored milk drink for some 13,386 kindergarten learners and “wasted and severely wasted” Grade 1 to Grade 6 pupils over a duration of 60 days and at a cost of P14,456,880.00.00.
It was reportedly awarded to A3 General Merchandise after submitting a bid lower than that of Amenia Beach Resort & Catering Services and two other bidders, a DepEd insider told the Tribune.
It may be recalled that A3 was one of three suppliers that won contracts in April 2020 to supply 4,545 sacks of commercial rice worth P10 million intended for distribution to households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was awarded a P2.9 million contract for 1,795 bags of rice at P2,200 per bag, the same price offered by two other suppliers – Virac Lucky Supermart, which was awarded a P1.21-million contract to supply 550 sacks, and Greenstone Enterprises, which was awarded a P4.84 million contract for 2,200 bags.
Last Jan. 29, 2021, a truck unloaded boxes of milk products at the division office presumably as part of the delivery of the commercial milk.