Cong. Sanchez to lobby with DILG for needed fire trucks

WITH ONE OF ITS STANDARD FIRE TRUCKS being overhauled (bottom right) and a smaller one too costly to repair (top right), the Virac Fire Station is left with one working fire truck and has to contend with finishing the unfunded repair of the building damaged by ST Rolly in 2020.

Reacting to the Tribune story on the Bureau of Fire Protection’s pending request for four fire trucks, Catanduanes Congressman Hector Sanchez last week assured that he would follow up the matter with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

In a phone interview, the congressman disclosed that early in his term, he had already requested the department and the BFP to allocate fire trucks for the province but the pandemic most likely affected the procurement of the equipment.

Sanchez said that the funds probably were realigned to the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act and subsequent measures that allocated funds for the national government’s COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021.

In September last year, during the House of Representatives’ deliberations on the BFP budget for 2022, it was found out that around P4.1 billion of the agency’s funds had remained “parked” in in the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC).

“Funds transferred to PS-DBM and PITC totaling P4,137,007,323.39 for procurement of supplies, materials, equipment and infrastructure projects remained outstanding for several years due to failure of said agencies to deliver the items procured. Thus, depriving the agency of its immediate use which are crucial in the operation of the agency,” the Commission on Audit said in its 2020 Annual Audit Report (AAR).

As of December 30, 2020, a total of P781,082,710.12 remained outstanding under the PS-DBM, with a total of P3,355,924,613.27 unspent by the PITC for equipment and other projects of the fire protection agency.

The state auditors said that the BFP should have used its bids and awards committee, rather than relying on the PS-DBM and PITC.

“BFP could have maximized the utilization of funds had they procured much needed firefighters’ trucks, equipment, supplies, gears and even construction of fire stations from eligible and qualified suppliers thru BFP Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) instead of transferring funds to PS-DBM and PITC without certainty of period of delivery thus, making the funds idle in the custody of these two government agencies and depriving BFP of immediate use of items which are crucial in the agency’s operation,” the auditors said.

Although the COA recommended that BFP demand a refund from PS-DBMI and PITC, the BFP asked that it would not do so as the two agencies are in the process of the procurement of the equipment and services.

According to the same audit report, the firefighting equipment and firefighting gear procured through PS-DBM for the past three to eight years have remained undelivered.

These include 73 units of firetrucks, P12 million worth of fire hoses, 17 units of smoke ejectors,  1,200 sets of PPEs, P90 million for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus and rescue cutting devices, P39 million worth of firefighters’ coats and trousers, P30 million worth of firefighters’ nozzles, and P85 million worth of fire gloves, helmets, coats and trousers, and boots, among others.

Also outstanding with the PITC are various procurement activities, including the acquisition of more than 100 firetrucks and aerial ladders worth a total of over P2 billion, construction of fire stations at a total of P900 million, and ICT-communications equipment valued at P150 million.

Even if the PS-DBM and PITC actually deliver the firetrucks and other equipment, a fire official told the Tribune that these would be released through DILG where a political backer is needed to ensure the allocation of the firefighting equipment for Catanduanes.

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