• Sue those behind dubious P16.9-B projects, govt urged

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    The discovery of the P16.9-billion worth of anomalous infrastructure projects implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) from 2009 to 2010 should result in the filing of plunder and graft-related cases, if not scrapping of funding for congressional initiatives in the national budget, against the culprits, Reps. Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list said.

    The Commission on Audit (COA) on Thursday said it has discovered that P16.9 billion in infrastructure projects involving 12 contractors are tainted.

    Irregularities found by COA include absence of funding cover, notice of award and contract, implementation despite absence of formal transmittal of Special Allotment Release Orders and Notice of Cash Allowance from the Department of Budget and Management, absence of realignment authority, bypassing procurement processes, non-compliance with required eligibility evaluation process, multiple contracts grossly exceeding the contractors’ net financing and constructing capacities; delayed/substandard/poorly implemented projects, contracts with bidding deficiencies or unauthorized signatories, deficient surety bonds and incomplete projects.

    “In the event that there is no proper implementation such as in cases of ‘ghost’ projects and/other irregularities, the proper legal remedy is not to declare the appropriations unconstitutional but to take appropriate actions such as issuing notice of disallowance by COA, blacklisting of the contractors by concerned government agencies and filing of appropriate cases, including plunder,” Barzaga, the vice chairman of the House Committee on Good Government, pointed out.

    Tinio said the executive branch should take it a step further and scrap the funding for the congressional initiatives, particularly the Various Local Infrastructure Projects (VLIP), which is under the budget of the DPWH.

    COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan said these suspicious projects were sourced from the VLIP budget, which also includes allocation from the annual Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel of lawmakers and the Malampaya natural gas fund.

    “It is about time that COA should look into congressional insertions, which have been a generally unspoken privilege. Pork barrel, at P70 million yearly, would be dwarfed [by]allocations with congressional insertions, which could amount to hundreds of millions,” Tinio said.

    Blacklisting of the 12 contractors involved in the shady P16.9-billion infrastructure projects would depend on COA findings that they illegally made money off the government, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said also on Wednesday.

    He pointed out that the projects were undertaken “in 2009 and 2010” during the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo.

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