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Signs of scam haunt bunkhouse project

GRASS starts to grow inside the unfinished bunkhouse in the village of Caatijan in Boston, Davao Oriental. NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

BOSTON, Davao Oriental—Three months after Typhoon “Pablo” devastated this town, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is still building bunkhouses for residents who had been rendered homeless by the calamity.

In the hinterland village of Simulao, more than 25 kilometers from the town center, the DSWD built two bunkhouses—one “by admin” (supervised by the DSWD) and another by a contractor. Each bunkhouse, however, has only two toilets, contrary to the project design that specified four toilets—two for males and two for females. Some 5 meters from the bunkhouses are open holes for septic tanks.

“We stopped construction because the materials have not arrived,” said village chair Joy Nanggoy, when the Inquirer visited the area on Feb. 20.

Nanggoy said the DSWD has asked him to tap residents for work on the bunkhouses and “gave me P50,000 as budget for labor for each bunkhouse.”

Based on the project’s cost breakdown given to the Inquirer by engineer Santos Eusebio, the DSWD budget for bunkhouses built “by admin” is P70,000 each. It is P20,000 less than what Nanggoy received. Eusebio is a consultant of the DSWD’s Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Service (Kalahi-CIDSS).

“P50,000 is really not enough to cover the laborers’ pay,” said Nanggoy. He said he himself worked on the bunkhouse for free “just to help finish it.”


Grass floor

In the village of Caatijan, the Inquirer saw two bunkhouses—one completed and another still unfinished with grass growing inside the rooms.

Village chair Natalio Latiban said he received only P60,000 as budget for labor for each bunkhouse. He said the other bunkhouse was unfinished because the materials have not arrived.

“Engineer Sam said he would be sending the materials this week,” Latiban told the Inquirer.

“Engineer Sam” is Sam Acorda of the DSWD team assigned to build a bunkhouse in Boston town.

Latiban said because the building materials are not enough, he spent P25,000 from his own pocket.

A “by admin” bunkhouse costs P550,000 while a “by contract” one is priced at P650,000, according to Eusebio, Kalahi-CIDSS consultant.

In Barangay San Jose, just a few meters from the national highway, the Inquirer saw workers rushing to finish the “by contract” bunkhouse near an already occupied one.

Village chair Roberto Cagutom told the Inquirer that he gave up providing laborers for the “by contract” bunkhouse because the P60,000 given by Engineer Sam was not enough.

Cagutom said the workers still have to “level” the hill where the bunkhouse is being built.

When asked, the “new” workers said they came from San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, and were hired by Noel Digol, the contractor.

Digol is a brother of Nick Elvi Digol, DSWD regional consultant for community processing.

In an earlier interview, DSWD Acting Regional Director Priscilla Razon said Noel Digol is a contractor for some of the agency’s projects even before his brother was hired as consultant.

Sources at the DSWD, however, said it was the first time that Noel Digol was hired as contractor.


Lack of materials

In the village of Cauwayanan, barangay chair Yeloto Badang said the “by admin” bunkhouse was finished on Feb. 15 while the “by contract” one has yet to be completed, again, because of lack of materials.

Badang said he received P60,000 for labor for each bunkhouse. He said he had spent at least P9,000 of his own money “to buy hinges and other materials” to finish the bunkhouses.

“We, the barangay captains, are the ones spending for what’s lacking,” he said.

Cabagasan village chair Romeo Reyes aired the same complaint. He received only P60,000 in funds for labor for each of the two bunkhouses in his barangay.

“I had to shell out P10,000 from my own money just to have work continued,” he said.

In all 10 bunkhouses—five “by admin” and five “by contract”—only one person faced and made a deal with village leaders—Sam Acorda.

Camilo Gudmalin, assistant social welfare secretary, told the Inquirer that the “explanation” he got from the agency’s regional office was that Acorda was “requested by the contractor to facilitate payment” for the workers.

“While the act of facilitation is admirable, which ensures that badly needed funds reach the laborers on time, I find the practice ethically unsound. We will look deeper into this case and if found and confirmed to be true, he will be dealt with administratively,” Gudmalin said.

Gudmalin also said the bunkhouses are being completed, showing photos of the ongoing construction to the Inquirer. He said the contractor, who had difficulties transporting the materials because of the rugged and uphill road, promised to finish all the bunkhouses by March 7.

What’s more puzzling, however, is that the money spent for the bunkhouses built “by admin” had been liquidated long before the structures would be finished.

Puzzling record

When the Inquirer checked the liquidation records at the DSWD regional office on Jan. 15 and 16, five “by admin” bunkhouses were already reported as completed. This, despite the fact that the Simulao bunkhouse was short of two toilets, the Cauwayanan bunkhouse was completed on Feb. 15 and the one in San Jose was finished on Jan. 25.

The liquidation records, already signed by regional financial analyst Annabelle Jabla, showed that a total of P555,000 was spent for labor in five bunkhouses in Boston. When asked about the expenditure, Acting Regional Director Razon said the figures for Baganga (P350,000), which has eight “by admin” bunkhouses, were interchanged with those for Boston’s P555,000.

Still, Gudmalin could not explain why a total of P350,000 was spent and liquidated even before the bunkhouses were completed. He said the liquidation records are now with the Commission on Audit. Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: Audit , disaster , Housing , Typhoon Pablo

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