FINE-TOOTHED COMB: Sen. Lacson Poses Questions at the 2020 Budget Hearing for the DPWH

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At the hearing on the 2020 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Sen. Lacson raised several questions involving the agency’s use of funds for infrastructure projects. “Sabi kasi ni Senate President, we will go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb. So we are going through all this.”

Sen. Lacson questioned the lodging of two-thirds of the DPWH’s budget in the central officeΒ ; unrecouped advance payments to erring contractorsΒ ; and the delay and/or non-implementation of projects due to poor planningΒ . He inquired as well if the issue involving road-right-of-way (RROW) has become a hopeless caseΒ .

But he also made clear these are not the only questionable cases, adding this is not to find fault. “We are going through all this. This is not to find fault but for (our) future reference.

QUOTES and NOTES:


BULK OF DPWH FUNDS WITH CENTRAL OFFICE:

Sen. Lacson inquired why 65.4 percent of the DPWH’s budget is lodged in the central office, while only 34.5 percent is distributed to the regions. “My question is, ano ang advantages in lodging the bulk of the budget, for civil works?

He also noted the overhead costs involved in keeping funds in the central office. For 2020, there would be potential savings of P870 million if the amounts for projects in the regions are directly downloaded to the district and regional offices concerned. “Ang basic question, why do we need to lodge it in central office na may cost ng 3.5% of the project cost, kung outright sa NEP or GAA naka-appropriate na sa regions, meron agad tayong savings?

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UNRECOUPED ADVANCE PAYMENTS:

Lacson questioned as well the unrecouped advance payments to erring contractors totaling P3.046 billion. “Ang P3 billion maliit pakinggan pero malaki yan.” The DPWH said criminal cases have beeen filed against the erring contractors.

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POOR PLANNING LEADING TO DELAYS, NON-IMPLEMENTATION:

Also, Lacson cited the COA report in 2018 showing P118 billion was lost due to delayed and non-implementation of projects, due to the absence of coordination with LGUs and agencies, and to slashed funds for feasibility studies. “I just hope medyo nabawasan itong amount as per COA report.”

He likewise lamented the DPWH’s failure to establish the technical viability of the projects. “Masakit pakkinggan yan. Kaya tayo may malaking budget for feasibility study.” Lacson noted that for 2018, P7.8B was appropriated for feasibility studies and preliminary detailed engineering.

Sen. Lacson also noted a downtrend in the budget for feasibility studies from the NEP (MalacaΓ±ang version of the budget) to the GAB (the budget bill after Congress has gone through the NEP) from 2016 to 2019. For 2016 and 2017, the funds for feasibility studies were slashed by P2 billion. “Nakikialam ba congressmen and senators sa feasibility study costs? Bakit bumababa pagdating sa GAB? Saan ito napupunta?

Lacson questioned delays incurred in 157 (out of 3,784) infrastructure projects amounting to P5.6 billion last year. The delays exceeded the 10% revised contract time. The DPWH said it is implementing blacklisting of erring contractors.

He questioned as well ‘overlaps‘ in infrastructure projects, such as two road concreting projects in Masbate. One was funded by the NEP but the other was possibly an insertion of the congressman there. There appeared to be an overlap of 300 linear meters but the projects entailed different costs – one costing P48 million per km and the other costing P38 million per km. “Bakit magkaiba e magkatabi lang ang project? Bakit may 10M difference per km?

Meanwhile, Lacson questioned a request for modification of a road project, that would have “saved” P11.54 million. However, the “saved” amount was not indicated in the request for modification. “Hindi reflected na nabawasan ng cost. Dapat indicate sa cost ng project bawasan ng P11.54 million. Sometimes mahirap liquidate, extend nyo na lang ng 300 meters, but in this case there’s no extension of the road concreting project. This is not the only overlap.” He added: “P11.54M here 11.54M there pag sinama sa mga region baka abutin tayo ng daang milyon din.”

Lacson also cited a flood mitigation project in Sorsogon that had no physical target. “Paano nagkaroon P90 million, walang nakalista na physical target, whereas the remaining projects may nakaindicate na malinaw?” He added this might indicate poor planning at least on the part of the regional director as the project had an overlap of 344 linear meters.

“Again, hindi naka-indicate saan napunta ang hindi nagamit na pera. 610 linear meters. There are others,” he said.

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ROAD-RIGHT-OF-WAY:

On the road-right-of-way issue, Lacson asked if it has become a hopeless situation, as the NEP for 2020 no longer stresses the provision that the DPWH should first ensure all ROW expenses are settled before starting to implement projects, unlike the GAA for 2019.

Maybe with proper collaboration between your office and legislators, we can somehow help expedite the resolution of ROW issues,” Sen. Lacson said.

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