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Gatchalian seeks COA performance audit on 20 ODA-funded projects

SENATE, Philippines – ​Senator Win Gatchalian wraps up work at the committee hearing with representatives from the finance cluster agencies of the government, 9 Feb 2017, where he asked for a special review of the contracts of 20 foreign-funded government projects. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN)

Sen. Win Gatchalian wants a comprehensive performance audit of at least 20 foreign-funded government projects to examine the financial and legal risks the government is exposed to in relation to these undertakings.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, asked the Commission on Audit (CoA) to conduct a special review of the contracts, which have been red-flagged in the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA), and submit its findings to the committee.

“We want to know exactly whether these projects were executed, if they were executed to specifications, whether or not the loans were drawn, and if yes, when will it be paid. Do they form part of our public debt stock? We want to see an independent audit of these projects,” Gatchalian said during the committee hearing on Senate Resolution No. 253 seeking a debt audit on foreign loans contracted by the government within the last 15 years.

He likewise asked the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to furnish the committee with copies of the projects’ contracts, the list of Official Development Assistance (ODA) that funded the projects, and status and assessment reports on the undertakings.

Specifically, Gatchalian is calling for an audit of the following projects: the Philippine Rural Development Project, Pampanga Development Flood Control, Bohol Irrigation Phase II, Angat Water Supply Optimization, Sixth Road Project, Power Sector Development Program, Help for Catubig Agricultural Advancement, Agrarian Reform Communities Project, Global Maritime Safety, Small Water Impounding Management, Third Elementary Education Project, Emergency Network Project, Southern Philippines Irrigation Sector Project, Calaca I coal-fired thermal power plant, Calaca II coal-fired thermal power plant, Calaca II coal-fired thermal project plant additional financing, Second Agrarian Reform Communities Development Project, Second Agrarian Reform Communities Development Project 2, Irrigation System improvement, and the South Luzon Expressway Construction Project I.

The senator gave the COA, the DOF and the BSP until next week to submit their reports.

“We are requesting for a comprehensive audit because we want to know and establish the legitimacy and feasibility of these loans. We want to know whether the Filipino people should pay for these loans,” Gatchalian said.

The Philippine government’s total debt stock stands at $77 billion as of June 2016, inclusive of public and private borrowings.

Also, Gatchalian called for a review of the Automatic Appropriations Law, raising the ante that the government might be using much-needed resources for basic services for debt payments on corrupt or anomalous ODA-funded projects.

“Let us review the law and come up with a mechanism where Juan dela Cruz will not be bound to pay loans which are onerous and disadvantageous to the government,” he said.