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Stop P1.12-B NHA compromise deal with R-II Builders, CoA asked

COLMENARES (FB photo)

COLMENARES (FB photo)

By BEN ROSARIO

The Commission on Audit has been asked to stop the National Housing Authority from proceeding with the P1.12-billion compromise deal with a private contractor in connection with the bungled Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project.

Makabayan chairman Nery Colmenares made the appeal in a letter he sent to CoA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo, saying that he is contesting the ideal being a taxpayer and a public interest advocate.

Colmmenares warned that the payment of P1.12 billion and transfer of five hectares of government land in Vitas, Tondo, Manila to private contractor R-II Builders Inc. at this time is ill-advised.

He said State auditors have already raised serious questions about the compromise agreement between the NHA and RII, noting that State auditors should have a copy of the document.

“At a time of severe economic hardship and as government resorts to borrowings to feed millions of hungry and jobless Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unconscionable for NHA to disburse limited public funds to pay questionable settlement fees to a private entity,” Colmenares stressed.

The former Bayan Muna congressman also pointed out that the Office of the President has given instructions to NHA officials to seek the opinion of CoA before moving forward with the deal.

According to Colmenares, the State audit agency’s review and recommendation will still have to reviewed by Malacanang and Congress as provided under the Administrative Code of 1987.

Earlier, Aguinaldo sent to NHA General Manager Marcelino Encallada Jr. a copy of the Audit Observation Memorandum in connection with the compromise deal.

In the AOM sent on May 12, 2020, CoA pointed to discrepancies between a court-approved P1.12-billion NHA-RBI compromise agreement and a 2019 NHA briefing paper submitted to Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.

It was in the 2019 briefer that NHA admitted that it has overpaid RBI by at least P301.7 million.

Colmenares chided NHA officials for their persistence in paying RBI to settle their court disputes.

“Former NHA officials, including NHA’s own lawyer – the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel – have cautioned against the deal. They question the computation of NHA’s supposed liabilities, legal interests, as well as valuation of government land that’s part of the deal. With all these questions, why the rush to pay,” the opposition leader asked.

According to Colmenares, the NHA had failed to fulfill its primary mandate of providing decent and affordable housing to poor Filipinos.

“Proof of this is the slums of Manila, the victims of typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in Samar and Leyte, and the homeless in Marawi.  And yet, NHA managers seem bent on paying P1-billion plus five hectares of government land to a company which, according to NHA’s own accounting department, has been paid more than what it is owed,” said Colmenares.

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