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THE House Rules Committee on Tuesday was told that projects funded by the P75-billion augmentation to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget for 2019 are only now undergoing the vetting process.
“Again the additional P75 billion. The projects were not part of the submission of the DPWH, and are only now undergoing vetting because we only saw the projects in the NEP (National Expenditure Program),” Undersecretary Maria Catalina E. Cabral told the panel.
“The vetting process now is being done by our field offices, including those that are not included in the P480-billion,” she added.
She said the DPWH proposed a P651-billion budget, but was granted a P480-billion ceiling by the Department of Budget and Management. The final NEP sent to the DPWH, however, showed a P555-billion allocation.
“The main thing that’s even more irritating is that this P75 billion which found its way to the NEP, which is now being vetted by the DPWH, have already undergone the bidding process,” House Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. of the 1st district of Camarines Sur said.
In response, DBM Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said the DPWH is aware of the additional projects because a DPWH employee encoded the projects in the DBM’s system. “The process within DBM during budget preparation is such that where DPWH is concerned, they encode the projects and it is uploaded into our system,” Ms. Canda said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo, meanwhile, rejected claims that DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar did not know of the augmentations, saying they were included in a DBM presentation during a cabinet meeting.
“Perhaps he was misquoted. It cannot be na he had no prior knowledge, because that was discussed in the Cabinet. That was a proposal, all of us were present and all of us consented to that,” Mr. Panelo said in a briefing on Tuesday.
Mr. Panelo also said he sees the passage of the General Appropriations Bill as a way to resolve the conflict between the House and the DBM.
“The conflict arose out of the items in the budget. So when they approve the budget there will be no conflict to speak of,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Andaya presented five more deposit slips to back his claims that dummy contractors are being used to win government projects.
The deposit slips are in addition to the P11.4 million deposited to the account of Aremar Construction after winning a project in Bicol, as discovered by the committee on Jan. 3.
“We have established an initial paper trail of possible corrupt money transfer from dummy corporations to Aremar involving P80 million, an amount that breaches the P50 million-plunder threshold,” he said. “Maybe it is time for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look closely into the bank transactions of Aremar Construction.”
The AMLC told the Committee it will provide the necessary assistance once a case has been filed. “We are mandated to operate and provide assistance to law enforcement agencies but this should be within the confines of the law,” AMLC officer-in-charge Mel Georgie B. Racela said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan