AFTER months of digging up and poring over documents, state auditors have unearthed another massive pork barrel-related anomaly that could dwarf the P10-billion scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Commission on Audit (COA) discovered that at least P16.9-billion infrastructure projects bankrolled by the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of lawmakers and the Malampaya gas fund were either grossly overpriced or peppered with irregularities.
The projects, implemented from 2009 to 2010 by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), involved 13 contractors — Antonio V. Nidea Const. (P845 million), Sunwest Const. and Dev’t (P1.9 billion), DSB Const. (P789 million), N-Four General Contr. (P25 million), Hi-Tone (P2.7 billion), Three W Builders (P2.14 billion), Ram Builders (P2.39 billion), I and E Construction (P1.07 billion), Algimar Const. (P668 million), Ferdstar Builders (P822 million), Ritz Commercial (P614 million), E. Gardiola Const. (P3.59 billion) and LMG Construction (P581 million).
These contactors had projects in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 4a, 5, 6,8 and 11.
COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan unveiled the anomalous projects on Tuesday when she attended the House inquiry into the P30-billion funds of the DPWH that went missing before then-President Gloria Arroyo stepped down in 2010.
In a power point presentation, Tan showed COA’s latest updates on the ongoing Special Audit Report on the irregular infrastructure projects.
She noted that the transactions involving the 13 contractors were made without funding cover, without notice of award and contract and were implemented despite the absence of formal transmittal of Special Allotment Release Orders (Saros) and Notice of Cash Allowance from the Department of Budget and Management.
Some of the projects were funded by DPWH savings but had no appropriate realignment authority, did not undergo procurement processes, were done without pre-procurement conferences by the Bids and Awards Committee and/or were non-compliant with required eligibility evaluation process.
Also, COA unearthed multiple contracts grossly exceeding the contractors’ net financing and constructing capacities; delayed/substandard/poorly implemented projects; contracts with bidding deficiencies or unauthorized signatories; and deficient surety bonds. Some of the projects were not completed.
“These [findings]are based on disbursement records, vouchers, checks. There were so many red flags that we decided to subject these [contracts]to fraud audit because they [auditors]are better trained [at spotting fraudulent transactions],” Tan told the House Committee on Good Government.
“This is a continuous, laborious process. This is going to take a while but we are getting there. We hope to finish it by the end of the year and forward it to the Ombudsman,” she said, referring to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
The Notice of Disallowance issued by COA as a result of these irregularities amounted to P184 million. Of the amount, P29 million involved projects in Region 3, P14 million in Region 4A, P18 million in Region 7 and P121 million in Region 11.
A Notice of Disallowance means that the lawmaker or the government official who released funding for a certain project should return such amount to the government. To date, the government has only recovered P17 million of the P184 million covered by the Notice of Disallowance.
Tan, however, would not say if the P10.6 billion earlier revealed by Secretary Rogelio Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways as shady fund releases for infrastructure projects is included in the P16.9-billion infrastructure projects tainted with irregularities.
Aside from the Special Audit on the P16.9-billion infrastructure projects, COA is also conducting a Special Audit on the P32-billion Malampaya fund covering 2002 to 2013, the National Food Authority, Light Rail Transit and at least P1-billion worth of right-of- way projects for NorthRail.