Calling the Ombudsman and COA
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - December 2, 2018 - 12:00am

There is always a first time for (almost) everything. I am about to do a first. I normally tackle only one topic per column. Not this time. Let me speak on two issues today, rather than just one.

 

The first involves the widening of a portion of MJ Cuenco Avenue, which I still call Trece Martires Street. This project is supposed to cover the length starting from the area fronting Cebu Skin Clinic to corner C. Mina Street in Barangay Mabolo.

To start widening Martires at C. Mina, the concrete fence of the Ancajas ancestral home was demolished. The new road actually ate a good part of their lawn to produce four lanes. Then portions of adjacent structures were torn down to an area near the entry point of Hipodromo where the road shrunk to two lanes. If we want to understand what is a bottleneck this is it, because the road has suddenly been reduced to just two lanes.

Has this project been completed and its contractor fully paid? I ask because few years ago work was announced suspended as negotiations were ongoing with the owner of an antique house. It seems the owner wielded influence, prompting officials to suspend the project. That is where the road bottlenecks. Since that announcement, work has ceased. The suspension became permanent. Since no workmen returned to the site, I presumed the project is incomplete. If that were the case, government should not have paid yet the contractor.

Here is the second issue. Few years ago a good stretch of the old San Jose de La Montaña, a very well-paved concrete avenue, was dug so culverts could be laid. Then the road was restored to its previous smoothness, of course. But we, who daily use this street, were surprised to see that in the last several weeks, it had to be dug again because bigger culverts had to be installed. Many of us have lost track of how close the repetition of work had been done, although if we peruse records, we’d be aghast by the proximity of the two constructions. Understandably, this series of public works projects must have cost the government coffers tens of millions of pesos.

There is no worse a demonstration of wastage of public funds than doing these works on San Jose de la Montaña. I hate to sound repetitive but I need to emphasize that the concrete road that was dug was newly done and worth millions. Government also allocated millions to dig in order to put the culverts and millions more to pave the road again. This latest public works project multiplies the cost quite unnecessarily.

To me, this is a form of plunder of public funds. It is not entirely unreasonable to surmise that when the earlier culverts were placed, the designs and accompanying estimates were not only miserably erroneous, they were planned to fail so the next round of public works have to be undertaken.

I honestly believe the time has come for the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit to organize a joint team to investigate these projects. Theirs is the constitutional mandate to work on this kind of investigation. I will be happy to be proven wrong in my suspicions but I am sure though that if the Ombudsman and COA find the parties responsible for these misendeavors, future pillagers might think twice before dipping their fingers into public funds.

COA
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