DAVAO CITY—President Aquino has said his favorite success story these days is that of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), an agency notorious for corruption during the Arroyo administration.
In those days public works officials sold contracts for projects and approved substandard projects in exchange for cash.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the World Bank-sponsored Philippine Development Forum (PDF) here on Tuesday, Aquino said the DPWH was one of the government agencies that spent a lot and ended each year with their budgets spent to the last peso.
But the funds were not entirely spent on projects or legal expenses, as large amounts were pocketed by officials of the agency “once known to be a den of corruption,” Aquino said.
When he assumed office in 2010, he zeroed in on the DPWH to clean it up as part of his administration’s “straight path” campaign, Aquino said.
‘Conscientious,’ honest work
One year after the introduction of reforms, Aquino said the DPWH realized considerable savings of more than P300 million.
The reason: Public works officials had become “conscientious.”
In 2012, Aquino said “honest work” at the DPWH resulted in savings of about P12 billion despite the government’s aggressive spending on public infrastructure.
Such are the results of his administration’s commitment to good government, Aquino said, beaming with pride as he enumerated the achievements of his reform campaign in his speech to Filipino and foreign economic planners who attended the forum.
BIR collects P1T
Aquino cited another success story, that of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which, he said, used to be run by corrupt officials.
The introduction of reforms and a top-down revamp have resulted in changes for the better at the BIR, the President said.
In 2012, for the first time in the agency’s history, the BIR collected more than P1 trillion, he said.
A “transparent” revenue campaign led by Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares made the achievement possible, he said.
For this year, the BIR promises to hit 95 percent to 99 percent of its revenue-collection goal for an even better performance, Aquino said.
The DPWH and BIR stories show what a serious fight against corruption can do even in the most corrupt agencies of the government, Aquino said.
“This kind of transparency and accountability leads to the increased efficiency of agencies and redounds to real results: money saved, programs improved, and people helped,” he said.
Aquino said the money that his administration had saved boosted the budget for other programs, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer Program that hands out cash to the poorest of poor families in exchange for keeping their children in school and submitting themselves to health care in state-run clinics.
Aquino said that for this year, the budget for the program was P44.3 billion, four times the allocation for it in 2010.
He said the budget increase was aimed at helping 3.8 million poor families.
Government savings also made the expansion of the PhilHealth coverage possible, Aquino said.
And his administration’s campaign against corruption has also boosted investor confidence in the Philippines, he said.
So encouraged are investors that even Mindanao, which for the first time in 40 years can look forward to peace and development with the signing of a preliminary peace agreement with Moro rebels, is getting a large share of fresh investment, the President said.