Tacloban asked to refund P36M over unfinished pre-Yolanda drainage project

MANILA, Philippines – The local government of Tacloban City has been asked by the Commission on Audit (COA) to refund to the treasury P36 million for failing to prove the accomplishment of a drainage project in March 2013 before Super Typhoon Yolanda came and ravaged the city.

In the Notice of Disallowance (ND) dated December 13, 2017, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler and the authenticity confirmed by COA and the Tacloban City Local Government Unit (LGU), the project was awarded to Yakal Construction, with the city paying the contractor P36.087 on March 15, 2013.

“The amount of P36,087,706.93 was disallowed in audit due to deficiencies in the submitted documents which failed to prove project implementation and accomplishments justifying the amount paid by LGU-Tacloban City,” said the ND.

The COA held liable for the transaction the city mayor at the time, former mayor Alfred Romualdez, city engineer Dionisio De Paz and Yakal Construction.

Reached by Rappler, current Tacloban Mayor Cristina Gonzales Romualdez, wife of Alfred Romualdez, said the disallowance is currently on appeal. Gonzales referred us to the city legal officers, but lawyer Irene Tiu declined to comment citing sub judice.

“My statement is that I’m not aware of the details because that was way back 2013. So I may not be able to give the proper details,” said Romualdez, who took over the mayorship from her husband after winning the 2016 elections.

DISALLOWANCE. The Commission on Audit asks the Tacloban LGU to return to treasury P36 million worth of advances that it paid a construction firm for a drainage project in March 2013. Photo obtained by Rappler

DISALLOWANCE. The Commission on Audit asks the Tacloban LGU to return to treasury P36 million worth of advances that it paid a construction firm for a drainage project in March 2013.

Photo obtained by Rappler

Drainage project

The P36 million turned out to be an advance payment for the total P240 million city-wide drainage system project that was awarded to Yakal in January 2013, audit reports of Tacloban showed.

The awarding of the project itself was flagged by city auditors for lacking required bidding documents. The P240 million Yakal drainage project was part of 12 public projects worth a total of P426 million that auditors flagged for irregular bidding in 2013, audit report shows.

“Some documentary requirements in the conduct of public bidding on various contracts aggregating to P426,114,507.22 were not submitted to the COA Audit Team in violation of pertinent provisions of the Republic Act No. 9184 and its revised Implementing Rules and Regulations thus, the regularity of the transactions could not be ascertained,” said the COA then.

In 2016, state auditors reminded the Tacloban LGU that it had paid an advance P36 million to Yakal for a reinforced concrete box culvert, a drainage system, but that “records did not show that the project has started or was implemented at all.”

“Thus, the advances to contractor of the project in the amount of P36,087,706.93 has been in the books for more than three (3) years already as of December 31, 2016,” said COA.

The Tacloban LGU informed COA that the contract was terminated on December 12, 2014 “due to the effects of Super Typhoon Yolanda.” (IN PHOTOS: Tacloban 5 years after Typhoon Yolanda)

Tacloban LGU raised the issue that there would have been more financial loss had the project continued to November in 2013 only for Yolanda to wash it off. (READ: Tacloban misspent nearly P1B in Yolanda funds – COA)

“Also noted, the project would have been 79.17% completed on November 8, 2013 when ST Yolanda struck the City had the implementation been on time thus, 79.71% of the advance payment been recouped as well,” the COA said, citing the response of the LGU.

Still, auditors said “there were no records to prove that the contractor had performed his obligations to the contract, and management had not exercised their rights as the owner of project to recover from the performance surety and bank guarantee, the advances amounting to P36.09M.” – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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