COA directs Biazon to bid the services of VASPs

THE COMMISSION on Audit (COA) has directed Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon to put into bidding the services of value added service providers (VASPs) to comply with Republic Act (RA) 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.

In its recently-released consolidated annual audit report of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for Current Year (CY) 2011, COA questioned the agency why it engages the services of three (3) VASPs for electronic lodgement of import/export entries without the benefit of public bidding.

Nevertheless, any violation to RA 9184, without prejudice to RA 3019, has serious penal, administrative, and civil liabilities that will be meted against persons charged for and convicted of the related crime.

Leaders of the Center for Anti-Graft and Corruption Prevention, Inc. (The Center) bared that BOC has been using the VASPs namely: e-konek, e-commerce, and cedic for decades sans public bidding, even after RA 9184 was enacted into law in January 10, 2003.

“The relevance to require BOC to bid out the services of VASPs by COA toes strictly to the desire of 93-million Filipinos and President Aquino for transparency and accountability in all public transactions wherein public and state interests should not be prejudiced for personal benefits,” leaders of the anti-graft group said.

Lane Afable, secretary-general, hailed COA’s report citing that it can now lay the groundwork for trustworthy reforms in the BOC, especially towards eradicating crooks in the agency and stopping pervasive organized corruption and smuggling.

“COA finally took a step to lay the straight path towards genuine change in BOC that Commissioner Biazon has to faithfully act on — or worse, ignore and let corruption live and let BOC die in faithful compliance to an ugly incompetence,” Afable said.

The COA report assailed the BOC Information System (e2m), serviced by the 3 VASPs, to have serious defects that bring grave injuries to the interest of the public and of the state.

It utterly cited that the e2m denies COA’s access for auditing on information related to importers, brokers, and shipments regarding: 1) Licenses and clearances; 2) On-Line Releases; 3) Client Information (client profile registration system); 4) Alerted and held shipments (hold and alert system); 5) Import and Entry Document ledger; 6) Tax Exempt Certificate, and 7) Tax Credit Certificate.

The COA cited that in their audit of entries, in most cases, there were no permits attached (especially on release of regulated commodities) and they have no access to license and clearance database that would facilitate verification of authenticity of said permits.

The e2m, according to COA report has no module to show the collections made by Authorized Agent Bank per entry and per port on daily, monthly, or annual basis that will provide grounds for reconciliation between import entries and revenues of BOC.

It further reported that COA has no access on the alerted shipments and basis why alerted, which are crucial towards identifying high-risk entries that are to be included for audit.

“E-manifests are submitted to VASPs for lodgements, thus there is risk of tampering,” the COA said.

COA recommended that BOC should lodge the cargo manifest that will be automatically matched with the import/export entries lodged by the VASPs in order to secure the data that enters the BOC gateway.

It finally asked Biazon that COA should have full access to e2m, especially those relating to assessment and collection to protect the interests of the state.

“Bidding for VASPs should be done immediately to stop extreme prejudice to the interest of the public and prevent further undue injury to the state,” Afable said.

The Center, Afable said, fully supports COA’s call to Biazon and vows to rise tall with its public duty as upright citizens to ensure that public responsibilities by public servants are done with nobility at all times.