National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr. says no payments or overpayments were made to R-II Builders Inc., the contractors of the Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project, in its compromise agreement with the company.
The Commission on Audit claims that the NHA had overpaid RBI for the agreement despite questions on its validity.
The compromise agreement was a resolution conducted by NHA and RBI as a settlement to one of their disputes regarding the implementation of the reclamation project.
According to Escalada, a Court of Appeals resolution gives him the authority to execute the payment.
But a letter from the Office of the President advised the NHA to obtain the recommendation of the audit commission on the settlement of RBI’s claims.
That settlement would be subject to the approval of the President and Congress.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Nery Colmenares had asked the Commission on Audit to stop the NHA from entering into a compromise deal with RBI.
In a letter dated June 26, 2020, Colmenares told COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo that, as a taxpayer and public interest advocate, he was opposing the NHA’s plan to pay P1.12 billion and transfer five hectares of government land in the Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project in Vitas, Tondo, to settle the court cases with RBI.
He said state auditors had questioned the compromise deal, a copy of which, he said, had not been submitted to the Audit commission.
“At a time of severe economic hardship and as government resorts to borrowings to feed millions of hungry and jobless Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unconscionable for NHA to disburse limited public funds to pay questionable settlement fees to a private entity,” said Colmenares, secretary general of Bayan Muna.
He said no less than the Office of the President had instructed NHA officials to first submit the questioned compromise deal to COA and secure its opinion. Afterwards, COA‘s recommendations would be subject to approval by the President and Congress based on the Administrative Code of 1987.