By Ben Rosario
The chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development on Thursday urged state prosecutors to explore the possibility of filing plunder charges against contractors and National Housing Authority (NHA) officials involved in the P1.5 billion housing development program for victims of super-typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez issued the appeal even as Leyte Rep. Yedda Romualdez asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to identify the contractors involved in the contract irregularities under the Yolanda Permanent Housing Program assigned to the NHA.
Benitez said that plunder charges can be pursued based on a congressional inquiry that found that contractors used substandard materials in constructing the housing units for Yolanda victims in three Eastern Samar municipalities.
Benitez said the COA will receive a report of the housing and urban development panel on a 2017 congressional inquiry into the Yolanda housing controversy.
He lauded COA for the judicious conduct of an audit examination that confirmed the House panel’s suspicions of a collision between contractors and NHA personnel in committing fraud in the implementation of the Yolanda housing projects.
In the recently released 2017 annual audit report, the audit agency asked the NHA to file charges against a contractor and NHA personnel involved in the contract irregularities.
“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
COA 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.
In the same audit report, state auditor berated NHA as it discovered that 10 Yolanda Permanent Housing Program projects worth P852.73 million progressed very slowly because the NHA awarded these contracts to a developer that had limited manpower and equipment.
COA pointed out that 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 of up to P100 million.