Newly-created housing department should address delayed P725.16-M project

By Ben Rosario

The chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Thursday acknowledged the audit observations raised against the Socialized Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), saying that the newly-created Department of Housing and Urban Development should swiftly address the Commission on Audit’s (COA) comments on the P725.167 million project as a priority as soon as it becomes fully operational.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez (  / MANILA BULLETIN) 
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez (  / MANILA BULLETIN)

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said shortage of land for socialized housing, including relocation sites for informal settler families (ISF), was among the problems that the DHUD must quickly resolved.

“The issue is availability of land for socialized housing. This will be addressed by the department,” said Benitez.

The SHFC is a state- owned corporation primarily tasked to carry out social housing programs for low income families in the formal and informal sectors.

In the recently-released 2018 annual audit report for SHFC, COA chided the state-run firm for failing to complete the P725.37-million housing project for ISF’s living in waterways and danger zones in Metro Manila.

COA noted a “slippage of 857 days or almost two and a half years” in construction of the High Density Housing Project in San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan.

The delay deprived the ISF beneficiaries “affordable and decent housing, , resulting to the non-attainment of the objectives of the Program, including the non-recovery of the Corporate Investment in housing projects, state auditors stressed.

The current SHFC denied any responsibility as new management appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte pointed out that they ordered the stoppage of work in the project after discovering “anomalous transactions” apparently blamed to the previous officials and the winning contractor.

“A High Density Housing Project (HDHP) amounting to P725.379 million was not completed within the period stipulated in the Building Construction and site Development Agreement dated June 8, 2015,” COA noted in its compliance audit of SHFC.

In 2015, the audit report revealed that the SHFC had purchased a 54,156.75-square meter lot in Barangay Gaya-gaya, San Jose del Monte City to relocate some 1,504 families living along QC tributaries identifed as Dahlia Creek, Dario River, San Juan River, Tullahan River, Diliman Creek and Payatas Dumpsite.

Following the purchase of the lot that cost SHFC P127.59 million, the housing firm awarded the P545.32 million to a contractor that was tasked to start construction in 2015.

Despite the huge amount of money already poured into the project, COA said the project “was still very far from completion.”

“Site development such as road networks, darinage works, water layout and electricity lines were not yet installed,” COA said.

According to the audit team, work stopped since March 2018 “primarily due to lack of funds and manpower.”

Audit examiners warned that the “continuous work stoppage may eventually lead to the deterioration of the unfinished structures, resulting to government funds.”

“Despite the prolonged non-completion of the project by Contract, SHFC did not impose liquidated damages,” COA noted.

The audit agency said the SHFC must compute the liquidated damages and demand payment from the contractor even as it recommended that the contractor be tasked to proceed with the construction and perform its duties as stipulated in the contract.