MANILA, Philippines—Almost three weeks since rumors of irregularities in the bidding process for new metro rail trains hit the press, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has finally spoken out, saying it was investigating the matter.
In a statement on Friday, DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya said he had already initiated an investigation into the reports that some DOTC officials tried to extort P30 million from the Czech company Inekon in exchange for a favorable result in the bidding for the P3.77-billion capacity expansion project of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3).
At the same time, Abaya said he wanted to “set the record straight on the murky extortion issue,” denying published reports that the agency “blacklisted” the Czech company.
“Inekon has not been blacklisted. There is no blacklist. There is simply no truth to the claim,” said Abaya in the statement, reacting to published reports. He also said Inekon never formally submitted a bid to supply additional light rail vehicles (LRVs) for the MRT-3 system.
On the other hand, Abaya confirmed he had met with the Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar last April and the ambassador had indeed “raised some concerns regarding the bid, and even requested (him) to be cautious about this issue.”
However, the DOTC statement said: “Abaya said that ‘personally, he felt that there was too strong a push for the Czech proposal, such that the allegations of irregularities were mixed with a business agenda.’”
Abaya went on to say that he had requested the Czech ambassador during that meeting to encourage Inekon to participate in the bidding that was held June 11.
During that bidding, two Chinese firms qualified. China’s Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. CNR Group, with a bid of P3.759 billion, then emerged as the only firm qualified to proceed in the process, which is now in the postqualification stage and could lead to a formal awarding. The other losing bidder was CSR Zhuzhou Locomotive.
Abaya said he would nonetheless look into press reports that an official of the transport agency had tried to extort money from Inekon.
“The DOTC is also inviting the people who claim to have been involved in the alleged extortion attempt to come forward, submit sworn statements and file a formal complaint,” the statement said.
Abaya said the existing team of executives at the DOTC were not his appointees but were holdovers from the previous secretary.
But he added: “Having worked with the current DOTC undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and members of our Bids and Awards Committees, I vouch for their integrity and good work ethic.”