BuCor mum on CoA report flagging jail food caterers

The Bureau of Corrections is silent about the Commission on Audit’s report that red-flagged the former over its laxity in upholding the food subsistence agreement signed with two catering service providers.

BuCor Deputy Director General Gabriel Chaclag, who is also the agency’s spokesperson, has yet to respond to a message sent by Daily Tribune before noon Tuesday.

The CoA, in its report posted on its website on 3 August, reprimanded BuCor for hiring two caterers which were later found to have violated provisions in the contract, including the feeding of pork to Seventh-day Adventists members and Muslims.

This is despite a guideline mandating BuCor to provide food according to religious practice, and specified as Halal-certified products for Muslims.

With a P813.614 million allocation from its 2021 Annual Procurement Plan for the meals of all detainees, the BuCor awarded the catering service contracts to AFS (Aurora F. Sumulong) Eatery for “all prison facilities at BuCor-Main” from 1 January to 31 December 2021, while Yovel East Research Development Inc. was contracted for the New Bilibid Prison Maximum Security Compound — South.

Of the P813.614 budget, P192.11 million went to the Medium Security Compound, P164.8 million for the South Maximum Security Compound, P129.67 million for the East Maximum Security Compound, P109.66 million for the West Maximum Security Compound, P86.87 million for the Correctional Institution for Women, P53.65 million for the North Maximum Security Compound, P39.37 million for the Reception and Diagnostic Center, and P37.28 million for the Minimum Security Compound.

CoA said the AFS Eatery had replaced raw rations and cooked meal items on several occasions without BuCor’s permission.

“What was supplied to the inmates had “lesser nutritional value and of lesser quantity,” the CoA report read, noting that steamed rice that was served on various dates was only one cup, instead of two cups per meal.

This, CoA added, violates the provisions stipulated in A and C parts of the “Guide to Serving Portions for the Menu.”

On 8 January and 8 May 2021, the same religious groups were reportedly provided only steamed rice for breakfast and lunch.

Unfit food assistants

Based on CoA findings, AFS Eatery and Yovel also violated their contracts by using kitchens inside the Maximum and Medium Security facilities.

Although the FSA allows caterers to employ persons deprived of liberty as food assistants, the caterer should guarantee the assistants’ hygiene and health making them fit to work in food-related occupations.

Out of the 126 PDLs hired by AFS Eatery, only 79 have health certificates and occupational permits from the City Health Office of Muntinlupa.

Meanwhile, two employees and all 74 PDL workers employed by Yovel East have no health certificates.

The Daily Tribune tried to get the comments of AFS Eatery, with a business address at 661 Mary Grace Village, Sto. Niño, Plaridel, 3004 Bulacan, thru their telephone number provided on their Facebook page but cannot be reached.

Yovel East Research Development Inc., with a business address on Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City, has not provided a telephone number on its website.

Flagged caterer since 2017

It was learned that it is not the first time that CoA flagged BuCor for contracting the services of AFS Eatery.

Notice of disallowance for a contract to AFS Eatery was issued by CoA in September 2017, ordering BuCor to refund, but appealed.

In 2019, CoA disallowed engaging the food service of AFS Eatery for violating the rules on eligible contractors.

But in 2020, BuCor still extended its contract for four separate quadrants of the Maximum Security Compound, using the same mode which auditors said violated the procurement law.

The procurement law requires a qualified contractor to present a previous contract worth at least 50 percent of the budget of the project it’s bidding for as proof of ability to deliver the project.

AFS Eatery was also flagged in 2019 because BuCor, under then-chief Nicanor Faeldon, split the Masecom into four quadrants with four separate food contracts.

It also incurred P500,000 worth of rental and liquidated damages for not paying a rental fee to BuCor in 2019.

AFS Eatery again incurred rental and liquidated damages for 2020, on top of the previous balance from 2019, bringing the total damages to P3.15 million.

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