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Lacson quizzes DPWH on unrecouped payments, overlaps in infra projects

By: - Reporter / @DYGalvezINQ
/ 07:23 PM September 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on its unrecouped advance payments to erring contractors and “overlaps” in infrastructure projects.

During the Senate budget hearing on DPWH’s 2020 budget, Lacson pointed out the unrecouped advance payments to erring contractors amounting to P3.046 billion, as per the 2018 Commission on Audit (COA) report.

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“What are the actions taken by DPWH to address this problem? ‘Yung P3 billion, under a P4.1-trillion budget, maliit lang pakinggan pero malaki rin ‘yan (The P3 billion, under a P4.1-trillion budget, would seem small but it’s still big),” Lacson said.

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said the agency is now “very aggressive” against erring contractors, having blacklisted around 20 contractors from conducting business with the government.

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He also said that the agency has filed criminal cases against the erring contractors for liquidated damages, or the amount to be paid by contractors in case of contract breach.

“It’s not a perfect system. There are really some problematic contractors but we do our best to really crackdown on them as best we can,” Villar said.

DPWH Financial and Management Service Officer-in-Charge Ms. Marichu Palafox said that of the P3 billion unrecouped advance payments to contractors, P900 million was already re-gained by the government.

Overlaps in infrastructure

Lacson also pointed out the “overlaps” in infrastructure projects, noting the two road projects in Masbate where one was funded by the National Expenditure Program (NEP) while the other was possibly an “insertion” of the congressman there.

The senator said there appeared to be an overlap of 300 linear meters but the projects entailed different costs – one costing P48 million per kilometer (km) and the other costing P38 million per km.

“Bakit magkaiba eh magkatabi lang ‘yung proyekto. Bakit may P10 million na difference per km (Why is it different when the projects are just next to each other? Why is there a P10-million difference per km?),” he said.

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He also pointed out that the government could have saved about P11.54 million on overlapping projects. However, he added, the supposedly saved amount was not indicated in its request for modification.

“Saan napunta ‘yung P11.54 million? Hindi reflected na nabawasan ng cost. Dapat i-indicate sa cost ng project na nabawasan ng P11.54 million. Sometimes mahirap liquidate, extend n’yo na lang ng 300 meters. But, in this case, there’s no extension of the road concreting project (Where did the P11.54 million go? It was not reflected that the cost was reduced. It should have been indicated on the cost of the project that it was reduced by P11.54 million. Sometimes it is difficult to liquidate, extend it instead by 300 meters.  But, in this case, there’s no extension of the road concreting project,” Lacson said.

Villar said that while he does not know the specifics of the said project, the difference of costs could be because of several factors, one of which is the difference in the topography of the area.

Delays and non-implementation of projects

DPWH was also asked about the delayed and non-implementation of projects in 2018 that resulted in government losses of about P118 billion, according to the COA report.

According to the 2018 COA report, the delays and non-implementation of projects were due to the absence of the agency’s proper coordination with local government units and other concerned agencies, as well as the lack of technical viability of projects.

“‘Yung lack of technical viability, medyo masakit pakinggan ‘yun. Kaya nga tayo may malalaking budget for a feasibility study, ‘di ba? (The lack of technical viability, that is quite hurtful to the ear. We have a big budget for a feasibility study, right?),” Lacson said.

The senator then pointed out the seemingly “downward trend” in the allocation for DPWH’s feasibility studies from the NEP to the General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

“Nakikialam ba ‘yung mga congressmen at saka mga senators sa mga feasibility study cost? Bakit bumababa pagdating sa GAB? (Are the congressmen and the senators meddling with the feasibility study cost? Why is the budget decreasing in the GAB?)” Lacson said.

“’Di ba dapat ‘wag na pakialaman ng mga lawmakers ‘yung feasibility study? Kasi wala naman silang pakialam diyan (Shouldn’t lawmakers interfere with the feasibility study? Because they don’t have any concern on that),” he said.

Nevertheless, the Senate finance committee approved the P533-billion budget of DPWH for 2020. It was subsequently referred to the Senate plenary for debates. /kga

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