DSWD IX Regional Director Zenaida Arevalo stated that the Department  (DSWD) welcomes factual feedback or complaints, especially those substantiated by evidence.

Director Arevalo said this in response to an allegation being posted in facebook of reported padding in prices of the food packs provided to displaced families at the height of the Zamboanga armed conflict situation.

“The allegation on padding of prices of packed meals is false.  We have heard this issue before, but based on our fact-finding, there is no evidence to confirm the claim.  In fact, procurement and accounting documents reveal that the packed goods we provided cost us P25 per breakfast and P40 to P50 per lunch and dinner.  P50 was the maximum amount we paid for lunch and dinner,” Arevalo added.

 “It is improbable that one lunch/dinner meal that is proposed by DSWD at P40 would cost P100 to P150 as per instruction of a staff.  Such price padding in receipts will never be accepted by our accounting unit, as only those indicated in the proposal will be honored.  The billing statements of caterers should, as a requirement, reflect the per unit cost of a packed lunch, in accordance to the bid document.”

Government procurement procedures are standardized by law.  The prices cannot be intermittently changed as only the amount indicated in the approved proposal is considered in budget allocation.    “Those knowledgeable in government procurement know that the allegations of ladderized padding of prices starting from P50 to P100 to a maximum P150 for a P30-meal are impossible.  The fund allocated based on the proposal will simply not cover such baseless and drastic changes in the price, thus, will just result to non-payment of the entire contract.  We welcome any report of such anomaly done by any of our staff, but must be supported by facts.  Any talk of an anomalous transaction by an alleged caterer, without any evidence is just malicious hearsay,” the Director added.

“We appeal to all Zamboanguenos and to the concerned citizens to use their careful judgment when they encounter such issues.  All sectors in society must help towards the rebuilding of Zamboanga.  DSWD also encourage the netizens to advocate towards contributing to the cause of a better Zamboanga, and must be vigilant against any call to action which does not help further this cause,” Director Arevalo stressed.

Moreover, Arevalo requests that all legitimate reports of anomalies and irregularities in the disaster operations by any DSWD staff be reported immediately for the appropriate action.  “Rest assured that we do not tolerate any illegal act, and the Department serves for the benefit of the public.  However, our DSWD employers continue to work hard and their efforts must not go to waste because of hearsays,” she asserted.

DSWD continues to provide relief assistance to the affected families of the Zamboanga armed conflict, which has now amounted to more than P188M  as of October 28.  The Department had also stopped providing cooked meals since last week, and continues to give pabaon relief packs to families who went back to their respective homes. ### (DSWD IX)