Kickbacks from government projects

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Thursday, January 9, 2014


IN DEVELOPE countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom, elected or appointed government officials do not wait for the verdict of a wrongdoing before they tender their irrevocable resignation.

Here, government officials are quick to promise to resign when the public condemns their unlawful activities. But the resignation vow usually comes with conditions, like “prove me wrong first.”

On the allegation that bunkhouses constructed for the families displaced aby super typhoon Yolanda in Leyte were overpriced, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson offered to resign if that is proven true.

Secretary Singson should not have made that statement if he didn’t mean it. There are many ways of saying it without being mendacious.

I did not say Secretary Singson is corrupt. But his defending almost to his last breath the manner the bunkhouses were priced only raises
suspicions something is fishy in it.

Former senator Ping Lacson, the Presidential Assistant on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, was the one who pressed the panic button. He said a local politician in a typhoon-hit area colluded with contractors and is getting kickbacks of from 30 to 35 percent.

The DPWH secretary’s denial is understandable. Who would be crazy enough to tell him about it? He clarified that the contractors were not yet paid.

Singson insisted there was no overpricing. He differentiated overpricing from under-specification.

"Some of the contractors may not have followed the specifications. And therefore we refer to them as ‘underspecs,’” he said. Overpricing, he added, is when “the specifications detailed, given by DPWH, and the unit price of these bunkhouses is above what normally would be in the market place.”

Lacson said that an investigation on the alleged overpricing of the bunkhouses is ongoing. I wish the investigation should be quick to unmask those involved in line with the “Matuwid na Daan” policy of PNoy.

Talking of kickback brings to mind the statement of Gov. Junjun Davide on Saturday before the grand regional joint breakfast of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) where he was an honored guest.

Governor Davide impressed upon the 1,000 attending members of BCBP that since he assumed office more than six months ago, he has not received any commission or kickbacks from Capitol’s projects.

Without any malice aforethought, I would say the Davide’s statement only affirms corruption in government projects. If offered a kickback, the governor said he won’t accept it but would advise the giver to donate it to the needy barangays.

But Davide should be careful, as other officials might get the said “commission” from the contractors without him knowing it. Meanwhile, contractors will now have second thoughts before they would approach the governor for projects.

A “commission” or kickback is taken from the cost of the project. This is one reason government infrastructure projects are substandard or below specifications because contractors also have to earn.

If I may suggest, instead of giving the “commission” to the needy barangays as the governor suggested, the budget for the project should be applied to the fullest so that infra projects, like roads, would last long.

The governor promised to keep the pledge he made during his inaugural oath taking to make transactions at the Capitol honest. It was a swipe at the previous administration, which was considered corrupt after several graft cases were filed against its top officials before the Office of the Ombudsman.

(atty.ellieE@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 09, 2014.

Opinion

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