NIA ready to face Senate probe

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National Irrigation Administration/Facebook

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is ready to face a possible Blue Ribbon Committee probe into what Senator Raffy Tulfo called an "institutional corruption" in the agency.

The investigation would be a good opportunity to improve the NIA, its acting administrator Eddie Guillen told CNN Philippines.

"In fact, mapapadali ang trabaho natin dito dahil kay Senator Tulfo. Meaning pag may problema, mas maraming titingin, mas maiintindihan ko ang sakit," Guillen said.

[Translation: Our job would be easier because of Senator Tulfo. This means, many will be looking into the problem and we would understand the issue better.]

In a privilege speech, Tulfo said the government has been wasting billions of pesos with NIA, a government-owned and controlled corporation responsible for irrigation development and management. It has been given a total budget of ₱121 billion for the past six years.

Tulfo named four contractors allegedly being favored by the NIA by continuously awarding them with projects despite their underperformance.

"Iilan lamang ito sa mga contractor na inyong makikita ngayon na nakatanggap ng ibat-ibang proyekto mula sa NIA sa kabila ng kanilang paulit-ulit na hindi pagtapos ng kanilang kontrata," he said.

"Kahit ang ilan pa dito ay na lagay na sa 'blacklist' ng NIA. Merong dokumento ang aking opisina na nagpapakita na nag-palit lamang sila ng pangalan at muling sumasabak sa bidding," the senator added.

[Translation: These are only a few of the contractors that received various projects from NIA despite not completing other existing contracts. Some of them are under NIA's 'blacklist.' I have a document showing that they only changed names before rejoining the bidding.]

Tulfo said there are also "ghost projects" worth ₱890 million, which have been funded by the government but never broke ground, mostly in Mindanao. The NIA also found 28 projects with substandard construction and other anomalies, the lawmaker added.

Senate President Migz Zubiri said the NIA should be held to account before they are allotted more budget for next year.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel wants to name the people behind the companies in question.

CNN Philippines also tried to reach out to the contractors on Tulfo’s list.

R.D. Interior Junior Construction denied Tulfo’s allegation that it has been blacklisted by the NIA and pointed out that it has certificates proving it delivered NIA projects in full.

CNN Philippines could not find the addresses and contact details of J.D. Construction and Supply, and Brostan Construction.

Oscar Sarmiento Construction has yet to respond to a request to air its side of the story.

CNN Philippines correspondents Eimor Santos and Lois Calderon contributed to this report.