April 17, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

A second complaint for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act has been filed against Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong this time involving the city government’s payment to the contractor of the Irisan multipurpose building despite adverse findings about implementation of the project.

The complaint filed by Councilor Mylen Yaranon last week alleged the ma-yor, as trustee of public funds, gave unwarranted benefits to Khatib Construction by allowing the company to proceed with the rehabilitation of the P50 million worth building despite findings of the inspectorate team composed of the Department of Public Works and Highways Baguio City District Engineering Office and the City Buildings and Architecture Office that the contractor committed slippages reaching to as high as 64 percent.

In construction, a slippage means failure to meet project duration and other project specifications. For government projects, the allowed slippage is 10 percent.

Yaranon said the contractor also modified the project and construction materials specifications such as the steel reinforcements in the beams of the building’s ground floor without approval of the funding agency.

Yaranon said auditing guidelines prohibits changing the materials to be used and modifying the project specifications without justifiable cause. She said if there is no approval, no payment should have been released to the contractor.

Despite being informed about the contractor’s lapses and the inspectorate team’s recommendation for the termination of the contract, Magalong consented for the construction to proceed and gave the City Accounting Office (CAO) the green light to pay the contractor.

As of April 2023, the CAO has released to Khatib Construction a total of P43,528,048.12.

Khatib was also awarded other national-government funded projects such as the P30M worth Wright Park multipurpose building and the P50M-worth Lualhati multipurpose building, Yaranon said.

Yaranon said the Ombudsman should hold the mayor liable for malversation of public funds, and for administrative offenses of gross misconduct, gross inexcusable negligence and committing acts prejudicial to the interest of the service.

Pending  investigation, the councilor asked the Ombudsman to preventively suspend the mayor.

The Irisan multipurpose building rehabilitation project is funded by the national government.

Terms and conditions for the release of funds is contained in a memorandum of agreement between by the city government, represented by Magalong and the DPWH-BCDEO, represented by District Engineer Rene Zarate.

In the MOA, the DPWH will advance to the local government of Baguio half of the total project cost and the rest will be released based on actual accomplishments of the contractor, provided that the LGU will have to liquidate the first budget. The MOA also states that either party may terminate the deal in the event of a default by the other party of its obligations.

The project, which was awarded to Khatib Construction Dec. 18, 2021, was supposed to have been accomplished by Dec. 18, 2023.

The first complaint Yaranon filed against the mayor was the one involving the city government’s procurement of a property in Topinao, Tuba, Benguet for its landbanking project.

The Midland Courier, through the city’s Public Information Office tried to get the comment of the mayor, but was informed that he is still out of the country and is expected to return to work this Monday.