Editorial: Overpricing infra projects

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


SOME interesting things are surfacing in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on allegations that the P2.3- billion construction cost of the Makati City parking building is too high.

And we are not mainly referring here to the possibility that Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was Makati mayor when work on the building started, and his son, incumbent Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., profited from the project.

Government agencies monitoring the implementation of infra projects that are nationally or locally funded and concerned groups and individuals battling corruption in the government bureaucracy can also learn from the probe, notably from the effort to pinpoint overpricing.

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What the hearing showed so far is the inadequacy of current mechanisms to expose irregularities in spending for certain infra projects, like the Makati City parking building. This is more so if government officials and contractors connive in hiding the overpricing.

Even the Commission on Audit (COA) initially didn’t get suspicious when its “specialists” conducted an audit on the project, which was done in several phases. It was only after a case was filed against the Binays with the Office of the Ombudsman that COA talked about the “red flags” it saw in the implementation of the project.

Now, COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan has formed a multi-disciplinary team that would conduct a special audit on the project.

Which brings us to the possibility that auditors missed out on most of the infra projects implemented by national government agencies, local government units and lawmakers at the local level like Cebu. That begs the question: how many millions of pesos have been lost to corrupt government officials who initiated these projects?

The reality is that the government money now lining the pockets of corrupt proponents of government projects could dwarf those that were lost to Janet Lim-Napoles and corrupt lawmakers in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

The importance of the probe on the Makati City parking building project therefore transcends the Binays or the political intentions of some members of the Senate blue ribbon committee. Also, it shows where the next battlefield should be after the abolition of the pork barrel.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 28, 2014.

Opinion

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