‘Makati City Hall II may have been over-designed to hide overprice’
MANILA, Philippines — While it has turned its attention to the Makati Science High School, the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee plans to return later to the topic of the Makati City Hall II parking and office building to tackle allegations of over-design, as found by technical experts, according to its chairman Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.
Members of the subcommittee, at its hearing on the Makati City transactions when Vice President Jejomar Binay was still its mayor on Thursday, indicated that the alleged over-design of the P2.28 billion Makati City Hall II building could be one reason behind its suspicions of overpricing.
Pimentel said on Sunday in a phone interview that he wanted to discuss the matter further because without proper guidelines on defining and discovering over-design, this could be a loophole that might be exploited to hide overpricing.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said over-design could either result in waste because of unnecessary features, even if there was no corruption, or it could be a way of making money because of under-delivery, or not constructing the building according to the specifications and then pocketing the excess funds.
A team of quantity surveyors tapped by the Senate found indications that the parking building was “extremely over-designed,” according to appraiser Federico Cuervo, who was asked to put together the team.
Makati City officials, as well Binay, who was the mayor when the Makati City Hall II building contract was signed and implemented, have insisted that the construction of the parking and office building was aboveboard. Binay and his son, the incumbent Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay, are facing a plunder complaint over the building’s construction.
Pimentel has directed the issuance of a subpoena, requested by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, for the signed, as-built and Autocad plans for the Makati City Hall II Building from its contractor Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation.
This was after Cuervo told the subcommittee on Thursday that the team of quantity surveyors he was asked to put together to estimate the quantified value of the Makati City Hall II parking building faced a lot of challenges because of incomplete information.
Still, the quantity surveyors, working with what they had, found that the building was “extremely over-designed, especially the foundation,” said Cuervo.
Quantity surveyors are technical experts who estimate the construction cost of buildings.
Citing the surveyors’ report to him, Cuervo said the foundation of the parking building supposedly had 126 bored piles. These have a 1.6 meter diameter and are almost beside each other.
He said the surveyors claimed “they never encountered this type of foundation design.”
The foundation is also 3.2 meters thick and the whole property is supposedly covered by sheet piling.
“Everybody knows that the property, they claim, is adobe foundation and it’s more than 200 meters from the river so there’s no need for any sheet piling. We can also look at buildings that are in the reclamation area,” Cuervo said during the hearing.
He further said the plans given to the surveyors were not as-built plans. They were also just given jpeg files of the plans, and without the proper signatures. Other data given to them were incomplete, he said.
There were also contradictory information in the files, he added. One file said there were two generators fit for a mall, while another electrical plan said there was only one generator in a different location, he said.
Pimentel said he would tackle the alleged over-design at another hearing, and that he wanted to discuss the topic more extensively before he could come up with the committee report.
Pimentel said he would like to determine which agency should be discovering over-design of government projects, because if nobody would check for this, others might take advantage of this to increase project costs.
“If there’s no such agency and budget proponents will see this loophole, all of them will resort to over-design,” he said.
“You won’t be able to catch anybody because it would appear that there’s no overpricing,” he added.
Although the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee has moved on to alleged irregularities in the building of the Makati City Science High School, it could still tackle matters related to the parking and office building, he said.
At the Thursday hearing, Pimentel also wondered if over-design was one way of overpricing a building.
Dennis Legaspi, executive director of the Government Procurement Policy Board, said that if there were more materials than what was needed, that could be a basis for overpricing. One example would be bloating the approved budget for the contract, he said.
In earlier hearings, the subcommittee heard testimonies from former Makati City officials that the bidding for the Makati parking building was rigged to favor Hilmarc’s and that Binay allegedly received kickbacks from infrastructure projects in the city.
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