NIA hit for project delays
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson deplored the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for its a pattern of behavior that is “tantamount to wastage of public funds” and urged the Senate to realign its 2021 funds to other projects of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
In his interpellation of the DA’s proposed budget on Friday, Lacson noted that from 2017 to 2019, the Commission on Audit found in NIA a “pattern of delays” in the implementation of irrigation projects.
Lacson cited one project—the P13.37-billion Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project (BBMP) in San Jose, Tarlac—which remains unfinished despite the P7.7 billion that the government has poured into the project since 2017.
Citing the COA’s 2018 audit report, Lacson said the BBMP accounted for 37 percent of the P20.7 billion allocated for 15 projects that were all delayed.
Yet, the NIA is still asking Congress for another P500 million for the project in 2021.
“What will the P500 million accomplish? Will this be a big help, or it will not matter at all? Because if it will not cause any progress, then we might as well use the funding elsewhere,” he asked Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture committee, who was tasked to defend the DA budget.
Lacson proposed that the funds intended for NIA projects be realigned to other projects of the DA, which has proposed a P31.5 billion budget for 2021.
According to the senator, the 2017 COA report already found 436 irrigation projects, with a total cost of P11.94 billion, that were delayed for up to seven years supposedly because of “inadequate planning and inefficient execution of surveys, investigation and engineering design.”
The 2018 COA report also found 299 irrigation project, worth P20.7 billion, that were delayed by up to six years, supposedly due, among others, to the “unsatisfactory performance” of contractors, Lacson said.
In 2019, the COA also found NIA’s performance “appalling,” the senator said, with 288 projects, costing P10.1 billion, delayed for up to three years.
“Now while admittedly these delays occurred before the appointment of the incumbent [NIA] administrator, we’d like to know what corrective measures are being put in place to improve and avoid further delays of these projects,” Lacson said.
Agreeing with Lacson’s pronouncements, Villar suggested that NIA should replace non-performing contractors.
“In the (Department of Public Works and Highways) if you cannot deliver, they terminate the contract and assign another contractor. It seems NIA is not afraid because as a corporation, it does not give unspent money back to the treasury,” she said.
Villar urged Lacson to file a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry into the delayed irrigation projects, but disagreed about realigning funds.
“It’s a series of 18 smaller dams, and if we are able to do one dam at a time, it will cover nine towns in Tarlac, not in one place only. The funding that is sought to be given may be considered small, but if the implementation will be continuous and efficient, I think this will be a good project,” she said.
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