Sereno camp: Nothing wrong with hiring of ICT consultant

By , on January 23, 2018


FILE: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (PNA photo)
FILE: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (PNA photo)

MANILA — The camp of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday said there is nothing irregular in the hiring of information and communications technology (ICT) consultant Helen Macasaet, whose contract of service expired in November 2017.

Sereno’s hiring of an ICT consultant with excessive compensation without public bidding is one of the allegations being tackled by the House justice committee during its continuation of the hearing on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

Sereno’s spokesperson Jojo Lacanilao said the engagement of Macasaet was done in accordance with the government procurement law through an alternative mode called “negotiated procurement”.

“The Supreme Court hired Ms. Macasaet from among three choices through negotiated procurement because her services are highly technical in nature and, therefore, exempted from public bidding under Section 53.7 of the 2009 Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9184,” Lacanilao said in a statement.

He clarified that it was “the Supreme Court, not the Chief Justice,” who hired Macasaet in October 2013 to review and assess the implementation of its Enterprise Information Systems Plan (EISP) and to implement the e-Courts and automated hearing projects for the entire judiciary.

Lacanilao further said Macasaet’s compensation was “reasonable and not excessive”.

In his verified complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of unilaterally, without public bidding, hired Macasaet as an ICT consultant with an allegedly excessive compensation of PHP250,000 a month, which is higher than the PHP150,000 monthly salary of an SC justice.

During the impeachment hearing, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, who also headed the SC Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) on Consulting Services, testified that the amount of PHP1.5 million for a consultancy contract, or PHP250,000 per month, awarded to Macasaet was the highest for an individual contract.

Villanueva said the BAC did not approve the consultancy contract but merely acknowledged that it met the requirement for a negotiated procurement, where the main criteria were trust and confidence of the procuring agency or end-user of the consultant.

“Nothing in the rules or even the law with regard the negotiated procurement states the BAC should sign the notice of award,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva said BAC only considered the Oct. 1, 2013 and May 23, 2014 contract of consultancy of Macasaet, who served at the SC from 2013 to 2017.

Villanueva said subsequent renewals of Macasaet’s consultancy contract were done by the Office of the Chief Justice.

Macasaet’s consultancy contract was renewed for 6 times each time for PHP1.5 million or a total of PHP9 million, according to Villanueva.

Lacanilao, however, noted it was the SC’s BAC on Consulting Services that characterized Macasaet’s services as “highly technical in nature” through a memorandum dated Sept. 10, 2013.

“The BAC also opined that the subject procurement primarily requires trust and confidence because it is a priority program of the Supreme Court,” he said.

Lacanilao said based on records, Macasaet’s initial six-month service contract, which took effect on Oct. 1, 2013, and which would entitle her to a monthly salary of PHP100,000, was also evaluated by the SC’s Procurement and Planning Committee, the BAC, and the Management Information Office.

After the review of the implementation and the update of the EISP ended in March 2014, an updated five-year work plan for the implementation of the program was formulated. A technical and policy consultant was necessary to implement the Updated EISP Work Plan.

The BAC again considered three individuals and following a review of their qualifications in relation to the requirements of the Terms of Reference (TOR), appropriate officials recommended that Macasaet be engaged as consultant.

On May 3, 2014, a new six-month contract of services was executed between the SC and Macasaet. Under the new contract, Macasaet was paid a fee of PHP250,000 per month, inclusive of applicable taxes.

Lacanilao said the fee was relatively lower than the cost of earlier ICT-related consultancies which were proposed by the Committee on Computerization and Library in 2012 and that the scope of her consultancy was much broader than those proposed consultancies.

“The result of Ms. Macasaet’s work also justifies her fees,” he explained. “Under these circumstances, her compensation cannot be characterized as excessive.”

He also emphasized that Macasaet developed and reviewed the TOR, provided technical assistance during the procurement and quality assurance for at least 16 projects worth PHP3.47 billion. “Her fees represent a mere 0.32 percent of the costs of the projects she was involved in.”

Lacanilao noted Macasaet has been in the ICT industry for more than 35 years, specializing in systems integration management, business re-engineering, digital strategy development, information systems planning, and solutions implementation.