Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz 3rd of ACTS OFW Party List described as “dubious” a firm to which the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) P8 billion e-passport project was sub-contracted.
According to the lawmaker, Malacañang investigated the contract after it was found that the project was illegally sub-contracted to a questionable private entity.
The DFA had awarded the 10-year contract for the printing of passports to the quasi-government entity APO-Printing Unit (APO-PU). APO sub-contracted the project to privately-owned United Graphic Expression Corp. (UGEC).
“What we originally probed is the delay in the issuance of passports but it opened a Pandora’s box that there was illegality in the contract of the DFA with APO-PU and UGEC. This is the cause of the delay because UGEC is heavily indebted,” Bertiz said during a recent seminar sponsored by Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute in Manila.
“The Office of the President is also investigating this,” he said.
Bertiz filed a resolution in December last year seeking a probe “into the persistent delays in the issuance of passports.”
The resolution has been pending with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs since January 17.
Salvador Panelo, chief presidential legal counsel, earlier said APO-PU committed grave abuse of discretion and could be held criminally and administratively liable for engaging UGEC’s services.
He explained that the government printer “should refrain from engaging, sub-contracting or assigning the printing of passports to private entities, including UGEC” because it is beyond its authority.
In August last year, on the prodding of Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Malacañang initiated an investigation into allegations that UGEC breached conditions in its Joint Venture Agreement with APO — one of the country’s official printers.
UGEC was reported to have failed to deliver a functioning disaster recovery system, supply 400,000 buffer stock passports, and to have made unilateral decisions to change suppliers of materials for the production of passports without first informing the DFA.
In November 2016, former Foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay branded the APO UGEC joint venture agreement a “sham” and cancelled it because of APO’s failure to adopt measures to protect the government’s interests.
“I am constrained to cancel this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding)… between the DFA and APO on the basis of the breach of agreement by APO in subcontracting the services provided thereat to a private entity,” Yasay said in a letter to Andanar dated November 4, 2016. He said he agreed to the “conditional implementation” of the contract “in the hope that by January 17, 2017, the production of the e-passports can continue in accordance with the MOU, unimpeded by legal constraints.”