Congress urged to investigate “irregularities” in P8.51-B project for SEA Games

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Senator Leila M. de Lima wants Congress to investigate the alleged irregularities in the P8.51-B sports facilities project for the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which she claimed disadvantageously entailed additional government spending.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 555, De Lima seeks to look into the possible irregularities that marred the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) entered into by the Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) with Malaysian construction firm MTD Capital Berhad for the construction of the said sports facilities.

“A thorough probe is warranted in the billions-peso project in order to understand the choices made by the BCDA that culminated in the deal which not only failed to comply with laws, but likewise cost the government significant public funds, considering that there are other arrangements that could promote better transparency, competitiveness, equity, efficiency and economy for the government infrastructure projects,” de Lima said.

“Di birong halaga ito. Bilyon-bilyong piso na naman ng kaban ng bayan ang maaaring nalustay nang walang pakundangan. Anong akala nila sa buwis ng taumbayan, sarili nilang alkansya?!” the Senator added.

Reportedly, Citizens Crime Watch Association, through its president Diego Magpantay, recently filed graft and malversation raps before the Office of the Ombudsman against BCDA President and CEO Vince Dizon and several others over the supposed irregular deal made with MTD over the construction of sports facilities for the SEA Games.

In a 2019 audit report released on October 14 this year, the Commission on Audit (COA) stated that the BCDA gave “undue advantage” to MTD Capital Berhad, which won the contract to develop the facilities in the National Government Administrative Center (NGAC) in New Clark City in 2018.

According to the same report, BCDA and MTD Capital Berhad initially only agreed on a project that comprised government buildings, commercial centers and residential housing with a total cost of ₱4.185 billion but they eventually agreed to incorporate in the project the sports facilities with the project cost of ₱8.51 billion.

According to COA, “there is no parallelism between the two PPP frameworks, the differences between the two approaches make them impossible to combine in a single project, such as NGAC.”

The state auditors further noted that the sports facilities portion of the project planned/conceptualized by BCDA which was negotiated into an unsolicited proposal rather than through competitive bidding, gave MTD Capital Berhad the said “undue advantage.”

“It is incumbent upon the BCDA to justify the choice of developing the Sports Facilities under the Joint Venture which is contrary to Contract Review No. 068 issued by the OGCC on 30 January 2018 which said that, it is, as a rule, ‘subject to public bidding,” De Lima maintained.

Stressing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern, De Lima said the BCDA should give a full accounting and explain why it made the government disadvantageously spend ₱9.539 billion instead of ₱8.51 billion when it incorporated the construction of sports facilities and athlete’s village in the JVA covering the construction of the NGAC.

“The BCDA is thus obliged to disclose the factors and circumstances that surrounded the negotiations that preceded the execution of the JVA now under scrutiny,” she said.

“As public accountability demands, the BCDA must also justify why they opted to pay the joint venture within calendar year 2019,” De Lima added, citing COA’s statement that “MTD could have shared in the losses that might be incurred from the project inasmuch as there was no proof of viability for the sports facilities.”

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