Solon questions DICT, MMDA for transferring fund for free wifi program sans Congress nod
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has questioned both the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for transferring funds for the free public Wi-Fi program without Congress’ consent.
In his privilege speech during Wednesday’s session, Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza said that DICT distributed around P3 billion to P4 billion of their P12 billion fund for the Free Wi-Fi for All Program to MMDA and several local government units through memorandum of agreements (MOAs).
The problem, however, Daza pointed out, is that there is no clear guidance from Congress about the fund transfers, considering that the legislature crafts the budgetary allocations for all government offices.
“However, we were informed that the DICT distributed approximately P3 to 4 billion of this allocation, mainly to the MMDA and several LGUs through MOAs. This is an example of what we call an inter- agency transfer,” Daza said.
“But this one in particular doesn’t seem to have clear guidance from Congress, which is mandated to enact the General Appropriations Act, making this transaction or agreement highly suspicious — if not illegal,” he added.
Daza said that while the intentions of the fund transfer may be good, it is still illegal as Congress should be informed of such movements in the budget.
“While we can assume that this distribution was executed with good intentions, we in Congress highlight the sacred duty of sound fiscal management. Inter-agency transfer of funds, which were already allocated by law, may only be done with consent of Congress. In this case, it seems we were completely blindsided. Nagawa nila ng wala tayong kaalam-alam [They have done it without us knowing],” he added.
“We have continued to reach out to the DICT, so they may share with us a more comprehensive report on the status of the Free Wi- Fi for All Program. Hopefully, this report can explain exactly why the inter-agency transfers needed to be done in the first place. More importantly, is the main recipient of this transfer – the MMDA – spending the money wisely and transparently?” he asked.
Daza posed this question as he pointed out that in one contract worth P1.1 billion, called the NCR Fiber Optic Backbone Development, a bidding was supposedly conducted successfully.
However, only one bidder supposedly qualified for the bidding, making that company the winner for the bidding. This, the lawmaker said, is perplexing considering that many bidders could have qualified for the big ticket project.
“Alam niyo naman po, Mr. Speaker, na tumataas ang kilay ng taong-bayan kapag ganito ang set-up. As our reliable source put it, ‘Ganito kalaki ang project pero iisa lang ang bidder na nag-qualify? Talaga?’” Daza said.
(You know very well Mr. Speaker, that the people raise their eyebrows with these kind of set-ups. As our reliable source put it, This is how big the project is and only one bidder qualified, really?)
“This is precisely why we are now compelled now to ask: How did a project as big as this fly completely under the radar? We checked online, and except for the bidding documents, there doesn’t seem to be any news about it,” he added.
INQUIRER.net has sought the side of both the DICT and the MMDA but they have not issued any statement on the issue as of posting time.
This is not the first time though that Daza called out DICT for funding issues. During the budget deliberations at the House, Secretary Ivan John Uy admitted to lawmakers that their budget utilization was “pitiful,” as the department faced challenges in implementing programs.
Daza then secured a commitment from DICT about fast-tracking their budget utilization, so that the public would benefit from their programs like the free public Wi-Fi project.
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