MANILA, Philippines – If you happen to be inside the controversial P2.8-billion Makati city hall parking building and had to answer the call of nature, you'd feel highly privileged if you knew how much the toilet fixtures cost taxpayers.
The flush-type toilet bowl you just sat on costs anywhere between P13,000 to P32,000. In the male comfort room, the urinal ranges from P12,000 to P31,000.
When you wash your hands, take note that the wash basin has a price tag of between P11,000 to P25,000. And as you put your hand to dry by the dryer, remember that generating the warm air costs between P17,000 to P62,000.
By the time you’re done, you would have experienced more than P100,000 worth of service courtesy of the Makati City government. This excludes the thousands of pesos spent on labor to install these accessories.
Dubbed a world-class building by Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay, the controversial infrastructure boasts of pricey accessories inside its toilets.
Based on the detailed estimates by contractor Hilmarc’s Construction covering Phases 3 to 5, the toilet accessories ranged from a few hundred pesos to tens of thousands of pesos.
But this is not the story.
Jacked up prices
In just two years, the difference in prices of these same toilet accessories – from the toilet bowl to the hand dryer— rose by around 300% on a per unit basis.
Corresponding with the increase in unit cost per item were labor costs incurred to install these items whose prices also jacked up.
Phases 3, 4, and 5 of the parking building construction were carried out in 2010, 2011, and 2012 respectively. Due to changes in the specifications for the building requirements, all 3 phases underwent revisions in the final costing, resulting in higher contract prices than the original Approved Budget for the Contracts (ABC).
Phase 3 has a contract price of P599.994 million; Phase 4, P649.934 million, and Phase 5, P143.806 million. (READ: Binay’s Makati building overshoots approved budget)
We checked several toilet rooms at the Makati parking building and found that majority of the fixtures carry the American Standard brand. While the accessories in each toilet are basically the same, they vary in prices by a huge gap from the detailed estimates, which, on face value, already raises questions about overpricing.
A detailed estimate indicates the breakdown of materials to be used in a construction project and the corresponding labor cost. It contains the number of items procured and the cost per unit or item.
A closer look at the prices of the toilet accessories reveals major price discrepancies. We also compared the retail prices of the toilet fixtures with the current prices of American Standard and other leading providers of bathroom products.
Based on the comparative prices above, Hilmarc’s quotation for the toilet accessories per unit increased year on year. Notably, the quotations are way above the current retail prices, and even exceed the prices of the more expensive brands.
Specifically, for Phase 3 and Phase 5, for the same products, prices of the accessories more than doubled, or even tripled as in the case of the urinal and hand dryer.
The detailed estimates also show that prices of minor toilet accessories, like paper holder, bidet, faucet and hand dryer also rose in cost per unit year on year. For instance, a paper holder that cost P490 in 2010, was priced at P750 in 2011, and then P1,183 in 2012.
We also sought comparative estimates from purchasing officers of hotels and other high-end buildings for the same toilet accessories. Since they order by bulk, cost per unit of the above mentioned toilet items went down considerably. They gave us the following breakdowns:
Escalating labor costs
Apart from the jump in cost per unit, Hilmarc’s Construction also appears to have padded its labor costs for the installation of the toilet fixtures. Hilmarc's Construction supposedly won the bidding for Phase 1 and was the sole bidder for the 4 remaining phases. One of the alleged participating bidders, J Bros Construction, has denied participating in the bid.
During a Senate hearing last Thursday, J Bros Construction president Alejandro Tengco claimed that his signatures that appeared in the bidding documents were forged.
The detailed estimates for Phases 3, 4, and 5 show the contractor pegged the labor cost at 30% of the cost per unit. For instance, for the hand dyer, installing one such item amounted to a labor cost of P5,250 in 2010. By 2012, installing a hand dryer cost P18,810.
This amount is equivalent to around a month-and-a-half salary of a minimum wage earner in Metro Manila. Minimum wage in Metro Manila is now P466 a day.
In Phase 5, where 4 hand dryers were to be installed, the labor cost ballooned to P72,240.
An ocular inspection conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee looking into the 11-story building has bolstered allegations it was overpriced. Senate resource persons who took part in the ocular inspection concluded that the parking building is a modern building of average standard, and not "world-class."
Construction for the parking building began during the time of former Makati mayor and now Vice President Jejomar "Jojo" Binay. The Binay patriarch oversaw Phases 1 and 2, while his son and successor, Junjun Binay, implemented Phases 3-5.
A statement issued by Makati City government spokesman Lito Anzures dismissed the conclusions of senators and the experts.
"Random and piecemeal assessments made by engineers, architects and quantity surveyors tapped by the Senate are not conclusive, and therefore cannot be used to validate the alleged overprice. It is only the courts that can determine overprice and criminal liability on the basis of evidence presented and the testimonies of all parties involved," Anzures said.
Technical evaluations conducted by the resident state auditors of Makati assessed that the construction for the Makati parking building were financially reasonable. (READ: Red flags in ‘overpriced Makati infra projects)