WHEN the Zamboanga City government acquired 90 brand new garbage collection vehicles last year, it did not know that it will be hauling a load of awkward questions from government auditors.
In the 2019 audit of the city released last July 23, the Commission on Audit criticized the city government for failure to consult barangay units before purchasing 44 dump trucks and 46 garbage compactor trucks costing millions from the local government coffers.
While the city donated the trucks to the beneficiary barangays it overlooked a few crucial details: most of the recipients have no funds to maintain the vehicles, get them registered and insure or to pay drivers’ salaries.
In some barangays, the streets were too small to allow the trucks to pass let alone provide safe parking when they are not in use.
The trucks came with air-conditioners regardless of their less than fragrant loads but barangay officials interviewed by the audit team said many of the air conditioning units did not work anyway.
But the biggest problem turned up in the garbage compactors – the design did not provide a space for the installation of a spare tire that were left at the barangay halls for storage.
“Thus, in cases of flat tire incidents, the truck drivers will have to call someone from the barangay to bring the spare tire to them or they will have go back to the barangay hall to get the tire themselves,” the audit team said.
While the trucks were supposed to have a two-year warranty each, there was no designated authorized service center.
Those who sought assistance from the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources (OCENR) were directed to private garages, Alex Ebol Auto Repair Shop or to the OCENR Motorpool.
In several instances when the vehicles needed servicing, the barangays called for a mechanic but mostly none showed up.
The city government was told to re-assess whether certain barangays can reasonably be expected to shoulder the cost of running and maintaining the garbage trucks.
For barangays that cannot afford it, the COA recommended that the city government step in to pay for part of the cost.
The audit team also reminded city officials to exercise foresight and evaluate the capacity and needs of each barangay before spending taxpayers’ money.
“For future donations of equipment, evaluate specifically the needs of the beneficiaries, taking into consideration their financial capabilities and other factors prior to its purchase,” auditors said.