P16.5-B public works 'scams' uncovered by COA

by Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 10 2014 09:53 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2014 07:37 AM

MANILA - There's a project in one town in Batangas province that has been dubbed the "road to nowhere."

The project has been sitting idly for years because of several anomalies discovered by the Commission on Audit (COA), which is now conducting a full-blown investigation.

The "road-to-nowhere" project in Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas, is worth P100 million.

But six years since it began, the project handled by contractor E. Gardiola Construction has barely progressed.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) first doubted the company, after finding it declared the same amounts of allocation, contract budget, and disbursement -- which the DPWH says never happens.

Today, the company is once again in the spotlight, appearing in Commission on Audit's (COA) special audit.

The COA said E. Gardiola Construction and Readycon Trading were given a P578-million project even when there was no funding cover or notice of award for the contract yet.

The DPWH also found several defects in the project located near the airport like cracks on the sidewalk and gutter, plane joints that were not asphalted, and perimeter walls that collapse.

This is supposedly just one of the many anomalous contracts identified by COA.

The questionable contracts total P16.5 billion.

"The special audit was done upon the request of DPWH and we saw a number of inconsistencies," said COA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan.

12 CONTRACTORS PROBED

COA is now investigating 12 contractors under the recommendation of the DPWH.

Many of these contractors supposedly overpriced projects.

One of them is Ferdstar Builder, which allegedly overpriced a road project in Eastern Visayas by P23.8 million.

Other contractors supposedly got a notice of award for projects even before Special Release Allotment Orders (SAROs) were released.

"Hindi po tayo makakakuha ng bidding documents kung hindi ka muna magbayad. Pero dito po lumalabas na nakapagsubmit ng bidding documents kahit hindi pa nagbabayad. It is a red flag as far as we are concerned," Pulido-Tan said.
     
Aside from the fact that many of these projects were never finished, contractors also supposedly used substandard construction materials.

COA has given the contractors a notice of disallowance, which would require them to return up to P184.6 million.

So far, only P17.8 million has been returned to public coffers. - with ANC