Valencia farmers to DA on NIA fertilizers: replace but get another source

SINAYAWAN, Valencia City – (Bukidnon News Dispatch/17 Sept.) The government must find a way to replace the substandard organic fertilizers distributed by the National Irrigation Administration to farmers in Northern Mindanao, if not, it would have been a waste of public funds, Judy Arota, president of the Federated Lateral G Irrigators Associations in Valencia City.

But Arota said the replacement stocks should come from another source, not anymore from 3K And C, supplier of the P30 million organic fertilizer distributed by NIA 10 in three phases since 2009 to help boost capacity of their irrigators association.“It cannot be from the same source because maybe they would give substandard fertilizers again,” Arota said.

Francisco Matulac, who continued to work with the NIA in Bukidnon for a techno-demo farm for organic fertilizers, admitted that he has been dismayed with what happened with the investigation.

He said he is open to the withdrawal and replacement of organic fertilizers, as recommended by the Department of Agriculture investigating team in September 2010.

“But the government should ask for refund from the supplier so it could use the fund to buy fertilizers from other suppliers,” he added.

Ildefonso Natingga Jr, NIA 10 organic rice demo farm officer, told Bukidnon News the agency’s organic rice farming demonstration efforts continued in 95 sites in Northern Mindanao even after the discovery of the substandard organic fertilizers.

“Farmers are beginning to value the advantages of organic farming even with what happened,” he said.

But he admitted that they have used another kind of organic fertilizer – not the one previously distributed from 3K and C.

He said he used the 3K and C organic fertilizers during its first phase in his demonstration farms for organic rice farming.

Natingga refused to comment on what exactly happened to the ill-fated project even if he said he is NIA-10’s “organic fertilizer man.”

Valencia City-based MLB Enterprises tapped Bayugan-based 3K and C to supply the fertilizers. The latter was owned by Carlos Salazar, the NIA administrator at the time the project was created.

The investigation, conducted when the P9.55 million second phase of the three-phase project was already distributed, was urged by the Bukidnon Provincial Board, through board member Glenn Peduche, who initiated inquiries in June 2010 questioning the procurement process, the quality, the supplier, and the price of the fertilizers distributed to at least a thousand
irrigators in Northern Mindanao, mostly in Bukidnon, using funds from the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) – Rice Program.

Peduche, now Valencia City Councilor, received a copy of the report only on August 2, 2011, almost a year after the DA-10 fact-finding team composed on July 20, 2010 by the DA national legal office, submitted their report to Alcala in September 2010. The team reported that the procurement went through a bidding process, completed on January 26, 2010. But there were lapses in the post-qualification stage, the fact finding team cited in its 18-page report, 14 of which are attachments.

Peduche, however, pushed for Sec. Alcala to act fast on the recommendation of the DA fact-finding team for possible replacement of fertilizers “so the farmers can benefit from it, after all”.

The fact-finding team’s report was silent, however, on the allegations of over pricing and also on the problem of propriety they raised against 3K and C Enterprises, producer of fertilizers for MLB Enterprises.

The report said only one firm submitted a bid, MLB Enterprises, which was later awarded the P9.555 million contract as the “single lowest calculated and responsive bid”. But the team reported the BAC did not conduct actual site inspection on the bidder or its suppliers during the post-qualification stage of the procurement process.

“The post-qualification was only limited to the legal, technical, and financial documents submitted by MLB Enterprises.” The team also reported that NIA, the procuring entity, did not conduct testing and inspection as to the quality of the ordered fertilizers upon delivery.

“The goods were inspected and received based only on quantity and not on quality,” said the three member fact-finding team led by Roxana Hojas, DA-10 regional technical director for operations, in their report.

The contract provides that the firm will deliver 11,000 bags of organic fertilizer and 14, 625 liters of “foliar liquid fertilizer cum pesticide” within 20 calendar days to the NIA’s Bukidnon Irrigation Management Office in Bagonta-as, Valencia City. It was not clear if the contract, a copy of which was posted on the internet (http://www.dgmarket.com/tenders/np-notice.do~4780857#), was for the third phase.

On July 23, 2010, investigators took samples from a portion of the undistributed stocks of fertilizers of the project in the NIA warehouse in Valencia City. The fact-finding team found out that the samples tested did not comply with the required NPK (Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus) specifications as printed on the labels in the bags.

The results, they said in the report, would show that the subject fertilizers failed to comply with the specifications of the procuring entity. “..hence should have not been accepted and paid for,” they stressed. The team also added in its observations that NIA inspectors “failed to notice the very glaring fact that the packaging of the organic fertilizer did not indicate the FPA registration number, which is the standard.

NIA officials also did not inspect that the NPK content printed in the label of foliar fertilizer cum pesticide failed to comply with their specifications in the bidding, the fact-finding team added. The resolution awarding the contract to MLB Enterprises also did not have a number, which a BAC official from the provincial government of
Bukidnon who asked not to be named is irregular because it is used to monitor the process.

The fact-finding team also noted that the NIA BAC should have allowed the another bidder who bought bid documents, People’s Agri Service and Supply, to participate in the bidding so as not to defeat the purpose of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which pushes as much as possible for competitive bidding, especially when there were only two bidders. The other firm’s bid was not accepted because it came 10 minutes late beyond the deadline.

The team reported, however, that in their dialogue with the irrigation association leaders who were recipients of the project, “all of them had positive feedback on the results of their harvest when they started using and applying the fertilizers” distributed by NIA.

“The team also found out that MLB Enterprises actually do not sell, Grow Organic Fertilizers, the same as they supplied to NIA in their store in Valencia City. “They informed us that those items were not available in their store and was only bought specifically for their contract with NIA-10. (Walter I. Balane)

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