Kalinga Capitol denies corruption in CR renovation

TABUK CITY, Kalinga  – The Provincial government outright denied corruption allegations in the renovation of bathroom stalls in its building.

“There is no truth to claims that the funding has been corrupted and that the project itself is overpriced,” the statements reads.

“The General Services Office (GSO) was swift to address issues of sanitation and cleanliness in the bathroom stalls. The contractor of the project was also immediately notified and is undertaking necessary remedial measures.”

The statement refers to viral Facebook post by Fr. Gaby Ballawig, a Catholic priest claiming corruption in the renovation of four male bathroom stalls on the first floor of the Provincial Capitol building. In the post Ballawig writes a transcript of a supposed conversation with a government employee who used the pseudonym Ben, claiming that the renovation was overpriced at P2 million and kickbacks were pocketed by government officials.

The post is accompanied by photos of clogged toilets, broken doors, broken exhaust fan, and leaking ceiling taken by Ben in the bathroom stalls.

The Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) refuted Ben’s allegations. Contrary to Ben’s claims, the project was not worth P2 million but P1.8 million and the program of work includes not only the renovation of the four male bathroom stalls on the first floor but also the renovation of four male and female bathrooms in the first and second floors, ceiling works in both floors, and the installation of two metal gates.

Based on documents obtained from PEO, the project was started in 2015 and slated to be finished on July 27, 2016 but the contractor, Equip Construction, was not able to finish until January 16, 2017. As a result of the delay, Equip Construction compensated the provincial government P18,000 in liquidated damages.

PEO explained that Equip Construction is obligated to do remedial works on the bathroom without additional costs under the “defects liability period” of one year from date of completion.

The rails subsequently added in the Persons With Disability (PWD) bathrooms are properly attached, countering Ben’s claim that they easily dislodged as they were a mere “formality” to comply with Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) requirements.

The PEO said the bathroom stalls had passed evaluation after completion and that the poor condition shown in Ben’s photos is a matter of maintenance.

GSO, the office in charge of bathroom maintenance, said that the stalls’ poor condition was due primarily to lack of personnel. According to the office there are only five utility workers for the whole Capitol building, and at the time the utility worker assigned to the bathrooms in question had taken a maternity leave. Contributing to this is the high number of people who use the first floor bathrooms, which are the most accessible to visitors and nearest the Kalinga Astrodome. GSO explained that the septic tank was also full at the time but it has since been drained and clogging was no longer a problem.

GSO assured that their office is always ready to address these kinds of complaints without the unnecessary pressure through social media.

In its statement, the Provincial Capitol expresses grievances over the Facebook post.

“The provincial government is not remiss in exercising transparency in its offices and in addressing valid complaints from any person, private individual and government employee alike. In this particular case, considering the nature of the complaint, an internal formal complaint process should have been pursued. The circulation of false and misleading statements could have been avoided and most importantly, grief on the part of employees who have dedicated their time and effort to bring recognition to the province would not have been caused.

Ultimately, it calls for more positive ways of engagement with the public.

“Moving forward, the provincial government appeals to the public to use appropriate channels to raise issues, concerns, and complaints and to work with us in bringing resolutions using positive and constructive approaches.”

By Iryll Sicnao

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