By Mario Casayuran
Those involved in the construction of sub-standard and delayed implementation of housing projects for victims of natural disasters in the country must be held accountable.
Senator Loren Legarda, chairwoman of the Senate finance committee, said this irregularity should not happen given the sufficient budgetary support from the national government.
Legarda made the statement during the Senate public hearing conducted by the Senate urban planning, housing and resettlement committee chaired by Sen. joseph Victor ‘’JV’’ Ejercito on the alleged irregularities on resettlement and relocation programs undertaken by the government for disaster-affected areas such as Tacloban and Zamboanga cities.
“These housing programs are being funded by taxpayers’ money, allocated through GAA (Government Appropriation Act). So why does this regularly happen? Somebody has to be liable for the irresponsible use of inferior, substandard and even inappropriate construction materials,” she said.
Legarda underscored the need for the judicious use of funds allocated for housing programs to strengthen the accountability of the government and provide the people with the assistance that they deserve.
“All these issues are not new to us, or to the agency, and they need to be addressed because this is an example of wasting the people’s money. Wastage and inefficiency in government programs undermine the confidence of the people in the institution,” she stressed.
Legarda also questioned the National Housing Authority (NHA) for building housing units in areas where there are no basic utilities.
“Why is the NHA building communities and relocation sites where there’s no electricity and no access to water? Why use the taxpayers’ money and government funds for land that is far-flung, and where you don’t provide basic utilities?” she asked .
Legarda, likewise, directed NHA to submit a report per housing program or project, which contains the name of the contractor, cost, updated balance, and status of the housing program.
She also requested for the attendance of the local government unit (LGU) officials where there are identified relocation sites, representatives of the calamity victims, the contractors of every project being complained about, concerned regional and field engineers of the NHA to be present in the next hearing scheduled on Monday.
“We cannot just blame the contractors here, because NHA as mandated by law to engage in low-cost housing production, should also be investigated on how they perform their duties and, if there is sufficient factual basis, they should be held accountable,’’ she said.
‘’If NHA is saying that the funds were not enough for the right type of housing to accommodate all the victims, then its officials should have been more straightforward in asking Congress for more budgetary support. Otherwise, the better thing to do is work within the budget, without necessarily putting the quality, and ultimately the life and safety of the people, at risk,” she added.