By Felix “Boy’ Espineda, Jr.
SORSOGON CITY — In an unnumbered Memorandum, lawyer Percival Alvarez the general manager of SORECO II was meted a preventive suspension for thirty days to end on May 23, 2019. The suspension dated April 22, 2019, takes effect immediately upon receipt by respondent
The suspension prevents him from entering any SORECO II properties without prior consent and needs a clearance from the board and that of the interim management. He was also ordered to surrender the service vehicle covered by a memorandum receipt under his name duplicate keys and other portfolio properties but he shall continue to receive his salary and benefits.
The suspension was base on the administrative case filed by Engineer Dominador Escoto, board of director president against Alvarez with the National Electrification Administration using the findings of the NEA audit report covering January 2005 until April 2015 transactions. The audit covered simple cash management to procurement transactions justified but was rejected by NEA of which dates under the management and guidance of Alvarez.
The complaint was for willful violation of NEA rules, regulations and audit findings, conduct prejudicial to the interest of SORECO II and its member consumers, gross neglect of duty, gross and habitual misconduct and dishonesty.
Escoto said that the findings came to the attention of the sitting board on January 2019 when summons for the answer of Director Surbano and Jumamil for an administrative case was filed against the two by SORECO II labor union NAMAS.
One of the issues raised was the award to JERA, a supplier contractor of the subsidy fund for seventy one sitios violating the government procurement act giving the contractor 73 percent for mobilization fund contrary to the prescribed 15 percent allowed in the procurement law. The fund was 43,455,152.99 pesos.
It also alleged that inspite of additional mobilization fund released to JERA for 23 sitios the project was delayed. That an additional project cost of 619,322.00 pesos was expended by the power firm because of bidding failure for the 23 sitios. And the release of forty percent mobilization fund for the twenty five sitio projects was disadvantageous to the firm.
During his time Escoto alleges that Alvarez failed to withhold a two percent tax to contractors including the acceptance of non-specified brand of materials contrary to specified contractor proposal in the tendered document. Alvarez was non-compliant for a public bidding in the construction of the four-storey building at Monreal and the multi-purpose hall at Buhatan inspite of its substantial cost.
The director also questioned Alvarez in the utilization of the restricted account and how it is replenish. The account was part of the audit findings which according to the complaint it is yet to be established. The general manager was also questioned about the unsettled power bill of 12.7 million pesos from May 2010 until November 2010, excluding VAT of 45 million which NEA inquired SORECO II management to locate one hundred seventy four million, seven hundred forty four thousand, one hundred eighty pesos and sixty nine centavos (Php 174,744,180.69) out of its collected payment from member consumers for power bill payment.
This issue came to the attention of the sitting board of directors only on February this year after Alvarez written explanation that the fund is not existing in the coffers of SORECO II despite its collection from member consumers for the period covered but was seen as misleading and self-serving by the directors.
It was imputed by the directors through Escoto that Alvarez perpetuated the practice of negotiated procurement, sole bidding and exemption to public bidding as the mode of procurement practice of the general manager for special projects and organizational purchases. The amount involved for this purchases was five hundred fifteen million, seven hundred twenty eight thousand, four hundred forty three pesos and seventy seven centavos (Php 515,728,433.77). Though this purchases were ratified by the then directors but the machinations to its execution was solely handled by Alvarez to the point of keeping information to the board was another allegation raised against him. This practice leads to a process of bid rigging and partial to certain contractors and suppliers.
The non-disclosure by management of the restricted funds for consumer deposit account specifically the collected burial contribution of members consumers to fellow members estimated to value of 150 million pesos from 2012 to present was neglected.
Another issue raised against him was is failure to date to account for the member consumer deposits and to submit a plan for its replenishment was seen as habitual misconduct which is prejudicial to the interest of the utility.
As a lawyer, Alvarez handled all litigation for SORECO II and was alleged to have prolonged the processes again detrimental to the power firm, that he choose to withheld critical information to the sitting board for them to come-up with appropriate policies was indicative of his dishonesty as also raised in the administrative case. Accordingly, Alvarez allegedly lied to the sitting board of directors when he mislead them in believing that the BIR case against SORECO II can still be mediated when in fact the Court of Tax appeal already rendered a decision in August 2018 due to his neglectful failure to appear during the pre-trial.
The board scored on Alvarez that his continued refusal to accede to important information which can be the basis of important policies in light of the restructured agreement with PSALM that covered the properties of the cooperative estimated to be 533 million pesos. He was also charged for dishonesty when the NEA memorandum of April 2018 to appoint a new general manager mysteriously disappeared and resurfaced after his extension term was already effected. The directors contended that Alvarez made them to understand that the memorandum was for his one year extension and increase in salary.
The general manager is also accused of coercing the employees and to sign a petition for his extension and instigating a divisive signature campaign to retain his position.
With the strained relationship between Alvarez and the sitting board of directors and the threats made by the manager to the directors in one of their meetings aside from the allegations for gross and habitual misconduct, gross neglect of duty and dishonesty, Alvarez was preventively suspended for thirty days by the board and in the light of the administrative case filed against him.
The embattled general manager remain silent up to this posting. [BicolToday.com]