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P1B IN PUBLIC WORKS IN SORSOGON AND CATANDUANES

DPWH list of winning project bidders altered, says Andaya

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 05:34 AM February 14, 2019

Official documents submitted to the House of Representatives investigation of an alleged P75-billion public works scam have been altered in what could be an attempt at a massive cover-up, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said on Wednesday.

A new list of successful bidders for about P1 billion worth of projects in Sorsogon and Catanduanes provinces for 2019 submitted on Tuesday by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) showed different data and omitted the name of a “favored contractor” earlier linked to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

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“This alteration of official documents is a serious criminal offense,” Andaya said.

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“We will try to unmask who maybe held criminally liable for this offense when the House investigat[ive] panel resumes its probe into [Department of Budget and Management irregularities] next month,” he added.

The alleged alteration of the list of winning bidders followed Andaya’s claim on Monday that contractors who had already paid 10 percent to 20 percent of the cost of projects as kickbacks to the proponents wanted their money back after Congress deleted P75 billion that the DBM allegedly added to the DPWH budget for 2019 without the knowledge of the agency.

The projects would have been funded from the P75 billion, which Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Andaya had identified as pork.

A Senate-House conference extracted the amount from the DPWH budget and realigned it to projects proposed by the lawmakers.

Andaya claimed on Monday that Diokno and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles were orchestrating the restoration of the P75 billion in the budget, which President Duterte has not yet signed, to “appease” the contractors.

The chair of the House appropriations committee, however, did not name the project proponents and the contractors.

On Wednesday, Diokno demanded that Andaya name the government officials and other people who had received commissions from the contractors for investigation.

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‘Very clearly graft’

“It seems Andaya has appointed himself spokesperson of these contractors who have already given commissions. Let me remind the congressman that giving commissions is very clearly graft,” Diokno said in a statement.

He pointed out that the DBM only prepared and supervised the budget and its expenditure.

The DBM is not involved in the bidding for and implementation of projects, he added.

Andaya cited in December last year documents showing CT Leoncio Trading and Construction Inc. had won the bidding for 14 projects in Catanduanes and Sorsogon.

He said the company had links to Diokno’s in-laws, who were local officials in Sorsogon.

On Wednesday, Andaya said the name of CT Leoncio was no longer on the list submitted to the House inquiry by the DPWH.

He said the list of winners had been altered to show that CT Leoncio did not win a single contract.

Change of fortune

The documents on the biddings for projects in Sorsogon and Catanduanes were “altered at the last minute” in an apparent attempt to show that contractors other than CT Leoncio submitted the lowest bids, Andaya said.

“If in 2017 and 2018 CT Leoncio [was] so lucky to have [cornered] nearly all projects, their fate seems to have overturned in 2019, as they did not win a single contract. That is really highly suspicious,” Andaya said.

At the start of his attack on Diokno last year, Andaya said CT Leoncio was the budget chief’s “favored contractor” and that it fronted for Aremar Construction Inc., a company that he alleged was owned by Diokno’s in-laws.

The House investigative committee showed bank deposit slips for P81 million allegedly paid by winning contractors to Aremar as “royalty.”

Andaya said “conflict of interest” pushed Diokno to promote the cash-based budgeting system, which allowed the awarding of projects even before the approval of the budget.

The system required agencies to spend their budget within the year. Unspent money reverts to the Treasury at the end of the year.

The congressmen balked. They preferred the obligation-based budgeting system that allowed agencies to hold on to their money beyond the fiscal year to finish their projects.

Diokno’s insistence on budget reforms sparked the conflict between him and Andaya.

Commission not allowed

On Wednesday, Diokno said the cash-based budgeting system allowed the bidding for projects before the approval of the budget so that the projects would not be delayed.

The system, however, did not allow “any form of advance payments or commissions.”

Contracts are awarded only after the approval of the budget, he said. —Wtih reports from Daphne Galvez and Ben O. de Vera

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TAGS: Benjamin Diokno, Catanduanes infrastructure projects, dpwh, Rolando Andaya Jr., Sorsogon infrastructure projects
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