Philippines: Senate leaders see fresh push for procurement reform next Congress

  • Bills proposing to amend Republic Act No. 9184, or the “Government Procurement Reform Act,” will likely be filed anew in the next Congress despite tepid legislative interest since 2016, Senate leaders said in recent remarks.
  • Amending the GPRA was among the priority bills identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council at the beginning of the 17th Congress in mid-2016.
  • The bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, have remained at the committee level since then even as the current Congress nears its end.
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto and reelectionist Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III, who separately authored bills amending the procurement law, said they plan to refile their respective bills in the next Congress.
  • Under Senate Bill No. 1713, Mr. Pimentel proposed to introduce the principle of value for money (VfN) to supplant the current “lowest bidder policy” that has at times led to poor quality of projects.
  • The VfN principle will allow the government to award projects to contractors who are able to meet relevant financial and non-financial requirement in terms of quality of the goods and services, fitness for purpose of the proposal, performance history, flexibility of proposal, and timeliness, among others.
  • The bill also provides that for projects that will be built in phases, the government office concerned should indicate in the annual procurement plan the total project cost, project description, program of works and approved budget for each phase.
  • Mr. Pimentel said in his explanatory note that these details are intended to prevent overpricing and awarding of contracts to favored contractors.
  • Under SB 1423, meanwhile, Mr. Recto proposed to give priority to local infrastructure industry players by adding eligibility requirements that will favor firms located in provinces.
  • Among others, a bidder with its main office based in the province where the project is located may participate in projects may vie for contracts with approved budget for contract (ABC) of up to PHP100mn, bidders within the project’s region may vie for contracts with ABC of over PHP100mn but not more than PHP200mn, while those located anywhere in the Philippines may participate only in projects with ABC of more than PHP200mn.
  • Mr. Pimentel said the bill was not tackled in the 17th Congress because it wasn’t backed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the leadership of former budget secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, who assumed the helm of the central bank in Mar 19.
  • DBM Officer-in-Charge Janet B. Abuel explained that Mr. Diokno had preferred any changes to be introduced through the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), in order to preserve provisions of the law.
  • Asked whether he will support the measure in the 18th Congress, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III replied in a mobile phone message: “yes, absolutely.”

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