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COA lifts liability of Baguio engineer in road project

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by Allan Yves Briones

In the interest of avoiding a “miscarriage of justice”, the Commission on Audit (COA) has excluded Department of Public Works and Highways Assistant District Engineer Rene Zarate from a P2.02 million liability over a 2014 road project.

In a decision by the COA Commission Proper (COA-CP), the three-man panel held that the then-project engineer had no hand in the “excessive” payment for the maintenance project along Quezon Hill Drive, Government Center Road and Lt. Tacay Road, Baguio City.

“His certification in the Obligation Request that the charges to appropriation/allotment are necessary, lawful, and under his supervision was made after the issuance of the approved Notice of Award, to attest to the legality of the transaction based on the ABC, Program of Work, and estimates prepared by his subordinates which appear legal and proper,” the decision read.

In addition, according to the panel, because Zarate was not the preparer, reviewing officer or approving official, he had “no participation” in the computations for the project.

The engineer’s appeal was granted despite previously being dismissed for being filed a day beyond the 180-day reglementary period. A decision the panel defended as such:

“By way of exception, unintended lapses are disregarded so as to give due course to appeals filed beyond the reglementary period on the basis of strong and compelling reasons, such as serving the ends of justice and preventing a grave miscarriage thereof,” COA-CP said.

The case originated from a notice issued by the state auditing agency disallowing P2.02 million paid out to Roadtech Construction, representing the “cost variance” between the original contract cost of P18.87 million and the COA evaluated cost of P16.84 million.

The three-man panel is composed of Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose Fabia and Roland Pondoc.

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