Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the Commission on Audit, it appears that the financial oversight body remains alert in safeguarding the people’s money.
This time, COA is asking the return of some P92 million spent on a nonexistent project in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
In a notice of disallowance made last August, COA said the money spent for the slope protection works along Sapang Balen and Quitangil Creek, in Mabalacat City violated procurement rules.
COA disallowed P92.525,687.52, paid to A. L. Dare Construction, because the projects appear to be “ghost projects.”
The auditing body said the assorted photographs submitted as evidence of the funds spent on the projects by the contractor “were taken from projects actually undertaken by the DPWH Pampanga 3rd Engineering District.”
According to COA auditors, the projects “were the slope protection works of the government along Sapang Balen Creek and Quitangil Creek in Mabalacat City in CY 2016.”
State auditors found that the four projects submitted by A. L. Dare—1st Phase Sapang Balen Creek Project worth P22,443,500; Last phase of Sapang Balen Creek Project (P39,985,500); First Phase Quitangil project (P17,382,700); and the Last Phase of the Quitangil project (P18,885,000)—were duplication of DPWH projects of Pampanga’s 3rd Engineering District.
These are the flood control structures, facilities, repair and rehabilitation of the Sapang Balen Creek at Barangay Mangalit, Mabalacat, Pampanga.
The state auditor named former Mabalacat three-term Mayor Marino P. Morales and A. L. Vital Dare, who owns the construction firm, liable for the transaction.
Other respondents include Bernardo B. Delos Reyes, former Bids and Award Committee (BAC) chairperson, and former city engineer Ramil L. Canlapan, BAC vice chairperson.
COA pointed out other irregularities in the procurement process of then-mayor Morales’ projects, include the ineligibility of the lone bidder and eventual contract awardee for non-compliance with various government requirements, such as “complete set of approved plans, technical specifications, bill of quantities by the bidder, and BAC resolution recommending the award.”
The audit body added that there were “irregularities in the conduct of bidding and in the bidding documents”
“These are all mandatory requisites and requirements under Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act,” COA said.
COA gave the City Government officials involved six months, either to appeal the findings or settle the disallowance.
In a curious twist, the Commission on Election’s First Division has ousted Morales and declared Crisostomo Garbo as the legitimate winner of the 2016 mayoralty race.
Marino Morales was also on President Duterte’s alleged list of drug trafficking protectors and coddlers.
During a speech last week, Duterte railed against COA for making things difficult for local officials, which has become a common staple in his continuing narrative against bureaucratic processes, which he said are obstacles to governance.
He joked about kidnapping and torturing the commission’s personnel who make life hard for local government officials.