COA denies payment to construction firm for Pangasinan road project
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has denied the request for payment of a construction firm, claiming to have implemented a road improvement project in Malasiqui, Pangasinan in 1998.
Based on a decision of the COA Commission Proper dated October 21, Aztec Construction and Equipment, Inc. should not be compensated for the concrete paving of Malasiqui-Calasiao Road because documents presented do not attest that the company implemented the project. Aztec president George Chua Cham said the project costs P8.346 million, based on COA records.
Although the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Pangasinan Second District Engineering Office (PSDEO) officials certified that the project exists, COA said: “However, based on the documents submitted, it cannot be determined who actually constructed the project.”
“As observed by the ATL (Audit Team Leader), there is no proof that the project was awarded to Aztec. Even the DPWH 4th DEO, which was requested by the ATL to conduct a survey on the project, certified that there were no records on file relative to the project allegedly constructed by Aztec,” COA stressed.
“Since the involvement of Aztec in the project cannot be established, this money claim cannot be granted,” it added.
But Cham argued in his petition: “The contract documents for the said project were not processed or approved due to the non-availability of funds… Due to the lapse of time, only a few duly authenticated documents could be submitted in support of the claim.”
Cham filed his money claim petition in 2017.
“In a similar situation, Aztec was able to collect payment from the DPWH Regional Office (RO) No. I in 2013 based on Commission on Audit Decision No. 2013-003 dated January 29, 2013,” he insisted.
However, COA explained that there are certain differences in this case and the previous case cited by Cham.
“It is worth noting that, unlike this case, there were sufficient grounds to grant the money claim of Aztec in COA Decision No. 2013-003 based on quantum merit. In the said case, Aztec was able to present, among others, the contract for the project, the Certificate of Completion and Letter of Acceptance. The DPWH RO No. I also certified that the project was completed and in accordance with the contract,” COA noted.
COA also said Cham may have forfeited his money claim rights due to lack of action, considering that the project was supposedly started in 1998 while his petition was only filed nearly two decades after the project was initiated.
“Moreover, this Commission agrees with the opinion of the ATL that, even granting that petitioner was entitled to the money claim, the lack of action on its part to collect the same from the year 2002 may already bar its recovery, as the 10-year prescriptive period to recover from the money claim had already set in,” COA pointed out.
“Aztec slept on its rights for an unreasonable length of time. As held by this Commission in COA Decision No. 1993-3275 dated September 16, 1993, estoppel by laches arises from the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it,” it also said. /kga
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