Probe P 1.36-billion Wi-Fi project, Ombudsman asked
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has asked Ombudsman Samuel Martires to investigate the P1.36-billion Free Wi-Fi for All Project implemented by the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) in 2019.
Guevarra said on Sunday that the DICT project was one of the 20 cases, which the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Task Force Against Corruption endorsed for investigation by the Ombudsman.
The DICT project involved the establishment of 6,000 Very Small Aperture Terminals in remote areas of the country to allow internet access in schools, hospitals and local governments by December 2020.
The DICT, under then Secretary Eliseo Rio, awarded the contract to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), then represented in the country by Titon Mitra.
The UNDP contracted the listed Australian firm, Speedcast International Ltd., which in turn contracted the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp.
At first, the project progressed quickly, with 111 sites activated 15 days after the launch, and even with the lockdown, a total of 225 sites were activated.
Four years into the project, only 882 of the 6,000 target sites were set up and Speedcast had already asked for Australian legal protection due to bankruptcy.
The DICT terminated its contract with the UNDP, and the latter has so far returned P283.99 million in unspent funds.