BY SILVER C. BALANZA
The Commission on Audit (COA) has served notice to a contractor and several officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Davao City District Engineering Office (DCDEO) that it is payback time for two road projects worth P17.9M that had been slapped by the government audit agency with a Notice of Disallowance in the amount of P12.9M involving 70 percent of the project cost.
The two road projects — Rehabilitation/Improvement along San Pedro Extension-Fr. Selga St. & Circumferential Road, and Sandawa Road to Ecoland Terminal, Tulip Drive to Ecoland Drive — were implemented in the First District of Davao City during the incumbency of then Davao City First District representative and House Speaker Prospero Nograles.
A COA Special Audit Team found no deficiencies in only about thirty percent of the P17,948,072.84 project, but issued the Notice of Disallowance on the remaining P12,966,395.91 that it said was “irregular, excessive and unconscionable.”
The key figures found by the audit team as liable for the anomalous transaction are Engr. Lorna Ricardo, the former DCDEO District Engineer, for signing Certificate of Completion and for approving payment despite deficiencies in the project, and contractor Elaine Gardiola, proprietor of E. Gardiola Construction, for submitting spurious documents and for sub-contracting the project.
Payment to E. Gardiola Construction was covered by Disbursement Voucher No. 101-1004726/Check No. LBP 01388263 dated April 29, 2010 in the amount of P17,948,072.84.
Thirteen other officials and employees of the DCDEO were also included by the Special Audit Team in the Notice of Disallowance.
The COA audit team composed of Maria Victoria Ranada, Attorney VI, Special Audit Team Supervisor and Araceli Pantaleon-Geli, State Auditor IV, Audit Team Leader, recently served the Notice of Disallowance to DCDEO District Engineer Fernando Ongkingco, Jr.
The audit team ordered Ongkingco to direct the persons liable in the anomalous transaction “to settle immediately the disallowance.”
Under the law, disallowances if not disputed and justified are subject to return of the public money and filing of criminal, civil and administrative charges against the liable persons..
The other DCDEO officials found liable by the Special Audit Team were Eng. Milagros delos Reyes, then the Asst. District Engineer and head of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC); Engr. Dwight Vincent Fernandez, Chief of Maintenance Section and member of the Inspectorate Team; Eng. Gregorio Yee, Asst. District Engineer and member of the Inspectorate Team; and Engr. Cecilia Barrientos, then chief of the Materials & Quality Control Section (MQCS) and member of the Inspectorate Team.
Eng. Emilio Sucaldito, then head of the Estimating Committee; Engr. Eduardo Villar, then Project Engineer; Eng. Lilibeth Sarmiento, then the Project Estimator; Eng. Ma. Gloria Sorrera, then head of the BAC Secretariat; Engr. Perry Neil Palacio, Asst. Chief, MQCS and Engr. Alfredo Caballero, then Project Inspector.
Nelson Luayon, Administrative Officer and member of the Estimating Team;; Rolly Tulayba, Laboratory Technician; and Restituto Mira, security guard.
“The amount of P12,966,395.91 is disallowed in audit for being “irregular, excessive and unconscionable,’ said the Special Audit Team.
It said the “disbursement was irregular in that the plan was prepared and the construction done without compliance to the set of standards of the DPWH.
The Special Audit Team said it found the project “excessive in the cost of labor and material overpriced by more than 100%.
Further, the team said that the contractor claimed payment for part of the project (Rehabilitation/Improvement/Resurfacing along Ecoland Drive) that was already implemented and paid for in another project awarded to another contractor.
The issuance of the Notice of Disallowance to a project implemented by the DPWH-DCDEO comes on the heels of reports by COA auditors about irregularities in DPWH projects worth P17 billion.
COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan said COA conducted a nation-wide audit upon the request of DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson in wake of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam that dragged the DPWH and lawmakers into the multi-billion peso racket of alleged scam queen Janet Lim Napoles.
PDAF also known as pork barrel allocates P200 million to each senator and P70 million for every congressman.
Efforts to get a statement from Engr. Ricardo failed as she is now said to be assigned in Davao del Norte.
The Durian Post also failed to get a statement from District Engineer Ongkingco, who was in the field when his office was contacted, on whether or not the E. Gardiola contract subject of the Notice of Disallowance was funded by the PDAF of Nograles or if the same projects in the contract were among the ‘irregularities’ in DPWH projects.
An earlier COA report said Nograles had been allocated more than P600 million in PDAF, the highest among congressmen next to the P2.8 billion of former Compostela Valley Congressman Manuel ‘Way Kurat’ Zamora. The figure on Zamora’s PDAF would later be corrected by COA as ‘erroneous.”