MANILA - Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido Tan said a project bid out in phases, such as the allegedly overpriced Makati office and parking building, already raises red flags.
During the hearing at the Senate on the P2.2 billion Makati building, Tan said “to implement it phase by phase is one thing because this is a matter of timing and sequencing. But this one [Makati office and parking building], it was bid out per phase.”
This shocked Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, the head of the blue ribbon sub-committee, saying it could affect other projects even outside the premiere city, Makati.
“Is that so? Because this will open a Pandora’s Box. There are a lot of projects implemented per phase,” he said.
Lawyer Renato Bondal, who filed a plunder case against the Binays, tagged Makati as the “chop-chop capital of the Philippines.”
He said concerned citizens just like him can only assess if a project is overpriced or above board once it is completed because it is implemented in phases.
Senator JV Ejercito interjected, saying that when he was San Juan mayor, big ticket projects had to be implemented and bid out in phases due to budgetary constraints.
In a statement, Binay spokesman Joey Salgado said: "Construction work in phases is common in government, as pointed out by Senator Ejercito. Makati is no different from from other LGUs or National Government agency."
Former resident Makati auditor Cecilia Caga-anan earlier said in a report that the parking building – which Bondal tagged as the most expensive in the world – was considered reasonable based on assessments made by technical experts.
A resident auditor is not an employee of the local government.
During the hearing, Caga-anan said she relied on the assessments of the experts as provided in a memorandum circular of the COA on how to prepare evaluation reports.
NO FINAL COA REPORT
But Pulido-Tan said there is no final report yet from the COA on the matter.
“I don’t wish to prejudge, but there are matters we have to look into intensively,” she said. She noted that the procurement of the first of five phases was done in less than two and a half months.
“If it’s because of efficiency, it’s really commendable. But if it’s a contract of this magnitude and complexity, it will take six months to a year,” she added.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay said the assessment of the resident auditor shows there was nothing irregular in the project.
“Nalulungkot po kami na sa simula pa lang, pinalalabas na ng aming mga katunggali namin na ayaw nilang paniwalaan ang report ng COA na walang overpricing. Para bang kapag kalaban sa pulitika ang inirereklamo at sinabi ng COA na walang overpricing o wala silang makitang iregularidad, hindi dapat paniwalaan. O kaya ay nagpabaya o baka nasuhulan ang COA,” Binay said.