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Benitez seeks plunder charges vs crooked contractors in Yolanda housing

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

House committee on housing and urban development chair Alfredo “Albee” Benitez has called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to look into the possible filing of plunder raps against contractors and National Housing Authority officials (NHA) involved in the multi-million housing scam for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Benitez stressed that state prosecutors could proceed with the filing plunder charges as contractors of the Php 654.59 million housing development project “used substandard materials” in constructing the housing units for Yolanda victims in three Eastern Samar municipalities.

“Contractors and government personnel involved in this con game that struck Yolanda victims twice over should be dealt with the full measure of the law,” said Benitez.

State auditors in the 2017 annual report instructed NHA to file criminal charges against a contractor and NHA personnel involved in the contract irregularities.

Benitez said he will submit to the Commission on Audit (COA) a 2017 committee report that investigated the alleged irregularities in Yolanda housing project to strengthen the future case that will be filed by national audit firm.

The Negros solon hailed COA for the judicious conduct of an audit examination that confirmed the House panel’s suspicions of a collusion between contractors and NHA personnel in committing fraud in the implementation of the Yolanda housing projects

State auditors recently disclosed that the unnamed contractor of eight housing projects in the towns of Balangiga, Hernani and Quinapondan has been awarded contracts that are beyond the firm’s capacity to implement.

COA said there has been a clear violation of procurement laws and other regulations as a result of the awarding of the contracts to the unqualified infrastructure contractor.

Auditors found the adjacent projects for the three sites were split into eight smaller contracts to “accommodate” that one developer—whose Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board license only authorized it to secure construction deals for up to Php 100 million.

They noted that the contract prices would have been the following: Php 133.29 million for Balangiga, Php 286.6 million for Hernani, and Php 234.7 million for Quinapondan.

The audit agency stressed that the contractor exceeded the Php 100 million cap of construction projects it may undertake and is in clear violation of violated Section 54.1 of the implementing rules and regulations of the Government Procurement Reform Act.