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Consumer group, Zamboanga City residents file graft case vs NEA, Zamcelco

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A CONSUMER group along with two homeowners associations in Zamboanga City have filed a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against officials of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and officers of the city’s electric cooperative.

In a statement on Monday, National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (Nasecore) said its Zamboanga City chapter filed the complaint over the alleged anomalous procurement of the investment management contract for the debt-ridden Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco), which was approved by NEA.

The case was filed on Feb. 6, 2018 against NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong, board members Rene M. Gonzales and Alipio Cirilo Badelles, and Department of Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella, who also serves as NEA alternate chairman.

The Zamcelco board of directors are also named in the complaint.

NEA and Mr. Fuentebella did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the complaint.

The complainants alleged that NEA approved the award of the investment management contract to a bidder despite their knowledge of irregularities in the bidding process that violate NEA rules and issuances.

On Aug. 31, the board of Zamcelco awarded the contract to the joint venture of Crown Investments Holdings, Inc. and Desco, Inc. for the management and operation of the utility, and solve its financial woes.

Zamcelco has debts of more than P2 billion in debts to its power suppliers.

Nasecore said its 14-page consolidated complaint-affidavit was filed by Marissa E. Aizon, its Zamboanga City chapter president, together with W.S. Mountain View Homeowners Association, Inc. and Capok Village Homeowners Association, Inc.

The complainants said despite knowing the alleged irregularities committed by the Zamcelco board in the bidding process, the NEA board still approved the contract “thus giving undue advantage and preference to declared bidder to the prejudice of the member-consumers of the electric cooperative.”

The complaint also charged the NEA officials with gross misconduct “for their blatant disregard of their duties as regulators” of electric cooperatives “by refusing to ensure that their transactions and actions are above board and in accordance with law, regulations and issuances.”

Ms. Aizon also charged Mr. Masongsong for violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees for refusing to act on her letter-request. — Victor V. Saulon